Collie Flanagan – named after the breed of dog and nicknamed “Lassie” at school – has the most dysfunctional family of anyone he knows. His brother Bingo refuses to grow up and has failed out of numerous schools. His father is an alcoholic and his mother hates Collie with a passion, mainly because Collie looks like her father, nicknamed The Falcon. Collie’s uncle, who lives with the family, has a pigeon-racing hobby that he’s often too drunk to pursue. But this is normal life for Collie, until tragedy strikes the family and changes everything. As a result, Collie degenerates at the same time he is forced to grow up.
Apologize, Apologize! is difficult to define, a work of literary fiction written by the talented Elizabeth Kelly. She has a wonderful way with words that really shines through. Her writing is at once beautiful and gentle.
None of the characters in Apologize, Apologize! are likeable - usually a problem in a novel, yet Kelly makes it work. Collie is stuck between boyhood and manhood, uncomfortable and unable to progress, but the reader can’t help but root for him, hoping he will find his way. Collie’s mother is absolutely horrible to him in every way, making her unsympathetic and completely detestable. She is also, however, hilarious – every time she opens her mouth in the novel is an opportunity for the reader to laugh. It’s a remarkable feat for a debut author to create a book with unlikeable yet addicting characters.
Apologize, Apologize! is not without flaws. The story seems to jump around without a real point of focus for the reader. As a result, it’s easy to lose interest in the book for the scattered lack of coherence. Additionally, all the characters seem like caricatures – if you’re looking for a believable and realistic novel, this isn’t one you should pick up. The entire novel is over the top, yet somehow it works. That quality does take away from Collie’s personal journey in the second half of the novel as he searches for both his manhood and redemption. The moral of the story and overall message of the book get lost in the quagmire because the narrative is so outlandish.
Apologize, Apologize! is definitely a unique piece of fiction. While it may not be the most enjoyable book to read, this is one that will stick with you for a long time. Readers will find themselves thinking about Apologize, Apologize! months after reading it. Isn’t that the ultimate goal of literary fiction?