Full of Ghosts: A Review of The Accident Season by Moira Fowley-Doyle

accidentI have really good intentions of writing a sensible and analytical review of The Accident Season by Moïra Fowley-Doyle (Corgi, 2015), but I am concerned that this will actually become an obsessive and embarrassing love letter which will lead to the writer taking out a restraining order against me. Make no mistake: The Accident Season is a really astounding book. I put it in eighth place in my Top Ten of 2015 and would probably have placed it higher if I wasn’t so worried about all the other books getting jealous.

So let’s raise our glasses to the accident season,

To the river beneath us where we sink our souls,

To the bruises and secrets, to the ghosts in the ceiling,

One more drink for the watery road. (p1)

The eponymous Accident Season refers to the month of October in the lives of Cara and her family. For as long as Cara can remember, it has been a month of mishaps, scrapes and, occasionally, major tragedies. The book takes us through the October of Cara’s seventeenth year, following the family as they negotiate their relationships with each other, their past and a mystery involving a missing school-friend.

Obviously, no plot synopsis will do justice to Moïra Fowley-Doyle’s book, because she is a much better writer than I am and to say too much here would be to ruin the book for you anyway. So I will bang on a bit about all the things I loved about it, beginning with the characters. I read a lot of books, and I find something to enjoy in almost all of them, but I don’t always connect with the characters; I had no such problems with The Accident Season, in which every character is fully developed and fascinating. Cara’s ex-step-brother, Sam, broods attractively throughout, and the relationship between the two characters is completely compelling and touching; I can’t think of many fictional bonds I’ve found so absorbing this year.

There is much to ponder  as you read The Accident Season; supernatural aspects abound, with the narrative recalling the work of Alice Hoffman with a style which is almost magical realism. The book follows Cara’s efforts to understand this dangerous time of year and the reÏader is able to piece the story together along with her; rather than trying to second-guess Fowley-Doyle’s thinking, I made no attempt to figure out any of the novel’s mysteries, and, as a result, was surprised and impressed with where the story went.

Something else I liked about The Accident Season was how weird it was, and I mean this in a completely complimentary way. In terms of recent YA fiction, I can’t think of anything to compare this with; in its style and story, The Accident Season is really quite unique. Fowley-Doyle employs a dreamlike style, with Cara describing fantasies and strange visions, and the lines between reality and fantasy very much blurred.  Cara, Sam and their friend Bea are outsiders, aware that they are deemed weird by their peers, writing “exquisite corpse” poetry and strumming a ukulele during their lunch hour, but at no point does their oddness seem contrived or unrealistic; there is not one character in this book who I found annoying and, as basically the most impatient and intolerant person I know, this is remarkable in itself. There are so many intricate and delicious details here, from the secrets booth to the ghost house, all of which fit perfectly into the unique and spell-binding narrative Fowley-Doyle creates.

Honestly, I don’t think I know enough complimentary adjectives to describe this book properly (and I’m an English teacher, so that either tells you that this book is amazing or that I am terrible at my job*). If I had the social skills to join a book group, this is what I would be forcing everyone to read. I am already planning my campaign to convince all my students to buy it so I can make them talk to me about it. I have been thinking about The Accident Season since I finished reading it a few days ago; I don’t think it is going to leave me anytime soon**.

*Obviously this is a joke. I am amazing at my job.

**Sadly, this is not true. It’s a library book and I am scared of the librarians. But I might have to buy my own copy and stroke it occasionally.

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