In Patrick Flanery’s third novel, a psychological thriller entitled I Am No One, we meet Jeremy O’Keefe, a New York History professor who occasionally reflects back on his time spent in Oxford where he used to teach Film, and met a young woman from Egypt who gave him, perhaps, a chance to redeem himself, and put him under the lens of an observer that might be the government, or somebody else entirely.
Jeremy O’Keefe “has failed to get tenure” and distanced himself from his daughter “just after the attacks on New York” to pursue a new life in Oxford. Odd things begin happening after his return to New York. Coincidences occur that should in no way be possible. Then, inside the home he thinks of as “semi-detached Victorian” and away from prying eyes, he finds that his private self is being monitored by an unknown entity.
I now believe that anyone, even the shrink running the local mental institute, can come mentally undone.
How long does it take for somebody, anybody, to lose his or her marbles after encroaching upon the proverbial mental point of no return? Flanery seems to have picked himself the most perfect protagonist. Jeremy is as intelligent as any normal smarty pants with a titanic vocabulary garnered from a good education and a multitude of good reading material can be. His extracurricular activities are as far from criminal as the sun is from Pluto.
Instead of just proving his sanity only to himself, Jeremy feels the need to prove his sanity to those closest to him as well, giving us the impression that he’s a man who’s anything but deliberately gooselike. While there’s a chance that Jeremy might not be insane, he is, and there are no bones about it, paranoid to an extent that can be equally understandable and laughable at times. He just fits the bill so well.
Jeffery might be lonely in New York, but in his reflections of Oxford, a different Jeremy, comes to the fore. Here we get to envision Jeremy satisfying the needs of other people’s wives on occasion, and having a drink with a crying husband who at one point begs for Jeremy to end whatever Jeremy has going on with his wife because she’s threatening to take the kids and run away with him.
Jeremy has quite a surprise in store for us. His Oxford thoughts might seem borderline pointless at first, seeing as how he is the type of individual who has a conversation with somebody one second, than, while that conversation is still being held, he disappears within his own mind and returns to the present where most of us will stare at the page feeling momentarily ruffled. It happens a lot, but eventually, the reason behind this becomes clear.
Flanery has taken me and put me inside the mind of an educated individual, to view the world as some Shakespeare-quoting Harvard professor might. I was elated and confused at the same time, asking myself as I looked at this smartphone of mine, do “phones listen?” I now believe that anyone, even the shrink running the local mental institute, can come mentally undone.
I received a free copy of this book from Penguin Random House SA in exchange for an honest review.
|Publisher: Tim Duggan Books
Date Published: April 4, 2017