By: Lorcan Roche
Publication Date: June 2007
Trevor, a film-school dropout from Dublin, signs on as companion to Ed, a rich, wheelchair-bound New Yorker. A bizarre, mutual-dependency pact is ignited and an odyssey into the mind of an off-kilter, rambunctious Irishman begins.
The Companion tells a story of obsession and control in which the dynamics of love and patience are tested to breaking point and beyond. Upbeat, defiant, dark and morally ambiguous, it sifts through family secrets and lies, and discloses the survival codes of Manhattan.
This Irish take on One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest develops into one of those rare, perversely elegiac novels that lodge in the mind.
Long after the last page has been turned.
‘Lorcan Roche is a fresh and vivid voice in new Irish fiction. I love the energy of his writing and its passionate engagement with the world. He is a gifted and clever storyteller.’ – Joseph O’Connor
‘…brilliantly achieved…Roche handles his materials well, never losing control over his narrative, keeping his reader’s attention throughout.’ – Derek Hand, The Irish Times
‘Essential reading for our times. Get a drink of something strong, grab a Velvet Underground album (preferably on vinyl), play it high, read aloud.’ – Tom Galvin, The Evening Herald
‘A terrifically accomplished first novel which never flags…manages to keep the reader continually off balance.’ – Hugh Bonar, The Irish Mail on Sunday
‘Masterfully written, and truly wickedly funny.’ – Joe Jackson, Sunday Independent
‘Psychologically complex, beautifully written, a splendid read. Buy it, read it and enjoy it.’ – Derek Davis, Today, RTE
‘A highly original debut novel.’ – Rowena Martin, The Irish Independent
‘There’s a wonderful cast of supporting characters—a Jamaican cook, an attractive physical therapist, the street-level rabble who occupy the bars and parks of New York City—but it’s Roche’s balancing of Trevor’s complexities with a quick wit, a sharp ear, and a deft understanding of how humans suffer that steals the show.’ – Publishers Weekly
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
LORCAN ROCHE, born 1963, is an award-winning journalist and playwright, travel-writer and lecturer. He once lived in New York City, where he was companion to a young man with muscular dystrophy. He lives in Dublin.
|Dimensions||215 × 135 mm|
Lilliput Press –
“Trevor is a young Irishman in New York City. A film-school dropout with a checkered past, he is also a born storyteller whose life, both past and present, plays out in short takes of absurdity, abandonment, and aggression, with brief moments of wonder and wisdom thrown in — not an atypical first-time reaction to Manhattan. Voices speak to him in the soundtrack tones of James Mason or Bob Hoskins as he picks up the outtakes of his life from the cutting-room floor. And in calling him a born storyteller, I should also mention that he is one of the most unreliable narrators one is likely to encounter; most of the book will be spent distinguishing the truth from the falsehoods. As he himself admits: “We lie to protect. We lie to inure. To keep on going we have to lie.”
Trevor answers an ad for a companion to a young man with muscular dystrophy. The setting, a luxury Madison Avenue apartment, might come straight out of an Albee play. The young man, Ed, has his own suite, lined with sound equipment and recordings; his father, a retired judge, is holed up in his study; his grossly obese mother has not got out of bed for ten years, and the three communicate only by internal phones. For the most part, though, Lorcan Roche does not milk this situation for laughs, but as the background to tragedy. I was not surprised to read that he has worked as a male nurse himself, for these parts of the book have an undeniable authenticity. Trevor gets the job because he has the physical strength, an upbeat personality, and apparently some previous experience at a handicapped center in Dublin. The kindness and patience he shows with Ed, even when the boy behaves like a spoiled brat, is Trevor’s most attractive quality. But Roche does not stint on the physical details of the bathing, the snot-wiping, or the bedpans, and he leaves us under no illusions about the frustration and sheer hatred that even the most devoted care-giver can feel at times.
I have to admit that I had a hard time getting into the book at first. Trevor’s voice, though abundantly alive, is not quite as fresh and original as the cover blurb promises, and the relentless profanity took a bit of getting used to. The cover also promises that the book is “truly wickedly funny.” It is not. Despite the comic tone throughout, there is little to laugh at; instead one wonders what all this relentless jocularity is hiding. Fortunately, as the book proceeds, we begin to find out, as we learn more about Trevor’s past, his academic father, his snotty sisters, and his close connection with his actress mother, nursing her devotedly until her death. There is one scene where he talks with a priest in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, which serves as a touchstone of seriousness, in which Trevor truly reveals something of his soul. As it happens, he disavows much of this later; indeed the whole middle part of the book lurches about like a subway car rather than moving smoothly forward. But even those few glimpses of the real Trevor give one something to hold on to as the book staggers towards an ending that may shock some readers, but nonetheless seems absolutely right.” ROGER BRUNYATE
Lilliput Press –
“Trevor, the central character, is someone we all can relate to, at a certain level. On the surface, Trevor is deeply angry, hurt and lost in life, yet trapped inside is a kind and caring spirit who becomes the only true friend to a severly disabled man. Incorporating both the dark and beautiful sides of life, Lorcan Roche weaves a riveting and compelling story. A must read.” ENDA LARKIN
Lilliput Press –
“Once you enter the world of Trevor Comerford, you will not re-emerge unscathed. Formerly employed in Dublin at the Central Remedial Clinic, Trevor was always empathetic and anxious to help his students there, creating firm bonds of friendship with them by refusing to recognize their physical challenges as “limitations,” by making them laugh at his vulgarity, and by taking them on day-trips (which became shoplifting expeditions). His departure from Dublin for a new life in New York City was made in full knowledge of the challenges of that city’s street life, which, in many ways parallels the chaos in his own life.
Trevor’s let-it-all-hang-out attitude makes him a particularly lively narrator who easily mixes street slang into the expletive-laden conversations he has with his own inner voices. His flippancy, his instinctive ability to size up the people he meets, and his wildly imaginative descriptions enable him to charm the reader with his irreverence from the opening pages. In New York Trevor accepts a job as a companion for Ed, an extremely bright teenager with muscular dystrophy who has little time left to live. Trevor makes Ed happy by “being this upbeat, hippy dippy version of me,” and telling him stories about his life and travels, his trips to Europe and India, his talent at long-distance swimming, his trips to concerts, his family life in Ireland, and his experiments with drugs, drink, and sex.
In a profane and casual stream-of-consciousness style, Trevor reveals his thoughts. By correlating these scattered thoughts, the reader soon realizes, however, that Trevor is an exceptionally unreliable narrator, a young man with serious problems finding his place in the world. His family is almost totally hostile to him-except for his mother–and all of Trevor’s knowledge of kindness and empathy has come through her. He has been able to apply this knowledge to his work at the clinic and with Ed. He has also, however, learned the opposite of these characteristics from others, and his anger against those who oppose him is always just under the surface, begging to be released.
Trevor’s references to things he’s seen through a keyhole, to being jilted, to a “citation,” and to his departure from Ireland, all part of his never-ending interior monologue (and sometimes dialogue), keep the suspense high, drawing the reader into the novel’s true heart, and as Trevor gradually begins to feel that he may have some power to control his life, his more positive outlook affects Ed positively. The conclusion challenges the reader to look deep within and consider anew many of the questions which have challenged Trevor throughout the novel. With brilliant imagery, a psychological framework as fraught as what one finds in the best of Patrick McCabe, and a main character who very gradually works his way under your skin and into your heart, Dublin author Lorcan Roche has created a startling, memorable debut novel which will keep you on the verge of tears even as you are laughing your head off.”
Lilliput Press –
“Trevor now in New York after leaving Dublin under circumstances that we will eventually come to know, takes on the job as companion/carer to Ed, the wheelchair bound teenage son of a wealthy family. But don’t expect The Companion to be just about the relationship between Rob and Ed, it is central to the story and dominates the closing chapters, but it seems that this is much more about Trevor and his problems, and because Trevor does not always tell it as it is a while before we really get to understand him and what is troubles are.
I mention the above because I think I would have enjoyed this much more from the start than I did, but once over this I found it a very good read. It does make rather excessive use of swear words, which I felt unnecessary, but that aside it is very well written. It also becomes quite touching as the account draws to a conclusion and we see the changes in Trevor and his growing relationship with Ed.” BENJAMIN