Ross Raisin
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Buy *Waterline* by Ross Raisin online

Ross Raisin
Harper Perennial
272 pages
February 2012
rated 5 of 5 possible stars

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Raisin is one of those extraordinary writers who thoroughly inhabits his characters. In Waterline, it is grieving widower Mick Little, a shipbuilder on the Glasgow yards. Mick has seen his youth and his job disappear, one to age, the other to hard times, his most precious link to life, Cathy, dead of lung disease. At one point, the struggling family attempts a new life in Australia only to return to Glasgow, their hopes and Cathyís future diminished by the attrition of time and disease. Still in shock at the pervasiveness of his despair over the loss of his wife, Mick endures the funereal rituals, finally bidding farewell to Craig, the son closest to his mother (and angriest at her death), and Robbie, who has traveled with his wife from Australia to be with his father.

The house finally emptied of well-wishers, Mick is crushed by the weight of Cathyís absence. He cannot sleep in their bed, he cannot breathe for the enormity of his grief in the home they shared. Raisin dissects these harrowing days of a man wandering an alien world with infinite precision, desperation reflected in the monologue running through Mickís brain in a Glaswegian dialect. The storyteller is intimate with his subject as Mick declines under the two-fold assault of personal anguish and social disorientation. A hard man perhaps best understood by Cathy, Mick hasnít the skills to emerge from grief to reintegration. Crowded out of his home by memories, Mick hopes that in London he will have the energy to find a job, get back on his feet and reinvent himself.

On that fateful move from Glasgow to London, an entire life is consumed by loneliness and the inability to reclaim a sense of purpose, from the mind-numbing rigors of a job as a dishwasher in a London hotel to the oblivion of drink, homelessness and the unlikely companionship of a fellow indigent Glaswegian who takes Mick under his wing- and teaches him the harsh lessons of survival off the grid. It is a haunting account of one manís journey into the dark night of the soul, his abandonment of the familiar and the otherworldly existence of those who depend upon charity to survive. While memories of Cathy and the boys drift through Mickís mind like familiar melodies, he speaks the language of the dispossessed, seduced by an alcoholic fog that allows a brief respite.

The protagonistís dissolution is rendered with compassion and a deep understanding of the vagaries of human nature and the power of grief in a novel rich in image and language. Mick is a modern man run out of options, employment, pride, hope, and finally his beloved wife, adrift and overwhelmed in a world too busy to notice him. Mickís psychological landscape is littered with landmines, from poignant memories to the lure of a pint, stories that spring like blossoms over an often bitter terrain, hope sprouting in a field of despair. Inserting the occasional chapter of individuals in transit throughout Mickís tale serves to center the protagonist, giving context to his invisibility among the crowds. In this profound, enriching read, Raisin writes with the same magnetism as Ron Rash, the same appreciation of time and place, his finger on the pulse of humanity, his voice clear and moving.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at www.curledup.com. © Luan Gaines, 2012

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