Livesey has written an interesting novel wherein Asperger’s Syndrome meets love-at-first-sight, a story filled with eccentric characters and unusual situations. At the center of all is the protagonist, Zeke, a simple English housepainter who struggles with a disease that is a mild form of autism, a condition that requires particular diligence in getting through his carefully structured days.
Zeke manages quite well despite an overpowering mother and ill father: “Wanting things that pulled him in opposite directions was at the heart of his condition.” That is, until Verona shows up at the house he is painting with his usual careful attention to detail. Suitcase in hand and seven months pregnant, Verona claims to be the niece of the owners and plans to spend a couple of nights at the house where Zeke is working.
Unexpectedly, both Zeke and Verona experience one of those rare moments of instant attraction, drawn into a sexually charged relationship in spite of her advanced pregnancy. Suddenly Verona disappears, leaving only a short note behind. Zeke is unable to locate her; in fact, at that time he doesn’t even know her name.
Fate smiles on Zeke. He learns Verona’s identity and that she has a career as a radio host, only to find that she has taken an emergency leave of absence. Thinking the situation hopeless, Zeke is stunned when Verona calls from America. She has traveled there in search of her brother, Henry, who is in dire financial straights and is being pursued by two shady characters who demand their money be repaid by the errant Henry. Verona asks Zeke to fly to her in America, which he does in spite of the limitations of his disease.
Verona looks forward to Zeke’s arrival as an island of emotional respite from Henry’s chaos, only to have their plans further complicated as Zeke returns to England, leaving Verona to fight her own demons, caught in a tangle of her brother’s debts and false promises. Thirty-seven to Zeke’s twenty-nine, and pregnant, Verona is hopelessly entangled with a brother who proves his unreliability over and over in the course of their time in America; her codependence with Henry a recurrent problem.
While Zeke and Verona share complicated family ties, both have much in common, a desire to survive the demands and expectations of others and a strong attraction to each other. But Zeke’s character remains the central focus of the novel, a man incapable of duplicity and without the usual facades, part of the charm that so attracts Verona. One can only hope the distraught Verona has the capacity to appreciate Zeke for his endearing qualities.
While family pulls determinedly at each of them, Zeke and Verona struggle against the odds to capture the one constant in their lives: love.