I Am No One by Patrick Flanery
(from the back of the book)
After a decade living in England, Jeremy O’Keefe returns to New York, where he has been hired as a professor of German history at New York University. Though comfortable in his new life, and happy to be near his daughter once again, Jeremy continues to feel the quiet pangs of loneliness. Walking through the city at night, he feels as though he could disappear and no one would even notice.
But soon, Jeremy’s life begins taking strange turns: boxes containing records of his online activity are delivered to his apartment, a young man seems to be following him, and his elderly mother receives anonymous phone calls slandering her son. Why, he wonders, would anyone want to watch him so closely, and, even more upsetting, why would they alert him to the fact he was being watched?
As Jeremy takes stock of the entanglements that marked his years abroad, he wonders if he has unwittingly committed a crime so serious that he might soon be faced with his own denaturalization. Moving toward a shattering reassessment of what it means to be free in a time of ever more intrusive surveillance, Jeremy is forced to ask himself whether he is “no one,” as he believes, or a traitor not just to his country but to everyone around him.
Flanery does a good job of creating an unsettling feeling. You feel uneasy as you watch Jeremy start to examine his life. All the people in his life start to have uncertain intentions. Everything from his past starts to take on new significance. He even starts to question his own sanity. And it makes you think about how much privacy you have and if you have to act like you are being watched all the time, even if you are “no one.” And it examines how something unexpected can make you question everything, even things you were completely sure of before. Unfortunately I didn’t like Flanery’s style of writing. He would go off on tangents that had nothing to do with the story. Jeremy received a package that was about the same size as a cosmetics case his mother once had and he goes on for a paragraph about this case that has nothing to do with anything. I can understand Jeremy, as the narrator, getting distracted by memories, but it happened a lot and they went on too long. Then he would analyze simple things, like someone using his first name, or a look his daughter gave him, to death. Again, some of it would be fine, but it is so much and mostly unrelated. And Flanery tends to use really long sentences. One page was a single sentence. And I find, with sentences that long, it is easy to lose track of what is being said and to forget where it started. So I liked the idea of this book more than I liked the way it was delivered. It did hold my interest and keep me reading but since I wasn’t a fan of the way it was written I don’t see myself reading any Patrick Flanery in the future.