Publisher: Legend Press
Publication date: 1st August 2016
Gasping for breath as he drowns in his own sanity, Vince, or rather the state of his mind and the demons that dwell there, are the subjects of The Blackbird Singularity. He’s an ordinary guy with a creative intelligence, which is being suffocated by the Lithium coursing through his veins. He relies on the drug to see him through to the next day, well this, and the immense strength of his wife, Lydia.
His behaviour is erratic and he’s missing out on what’s left of his life since the tragic death of his young son pushed him into a dark, dark corner. With his writing career non-existent, incapable of holding down a paying day job, he’s financially supported by Lydia much to the disapproval of her family. In their eyes this waster locust who feeds of her good will has sunk lower than they could have ever thought.
As he discovers he and Lydia are to be parents again, there’s a pivotal point in Vince’s thinking. He stops taking the Lithium. He doesn’t tell anyone, as this is Vince staking a claim on himself once again. The withdrawal results in manic episodes that are blooming with clarity followed by hallucinations tapping into his sub conscious. Scary as this is, life becomes so vivid he is able to write again. But this liberation entwines with confusion when Blackbirds begin to visit his garden. Vince strikes an affinity with one fearless chappie who defies convention to cautiously investigate this strange man standing on the patio in his pj’s clutching a bag of raisins.
Their worlds become linked by something I could only describe as deeply spiritual, and Vince begins to look for meaningful signs from his feathered friend. The relationship could be a cathartic experience or may just give him a reason to get up every morning. By concentrating his efforts on getting well without clouding his judgement with his medication, he misses the most vital sign of all – Lydia is drifting further away.
It’s painful to see how a tragic circumstance eroded what they once shared. Charlie, their son, is not openly discussed after Vince’s breakdown but it’s clear that they both can’t accept that he’s not coming back.
The story is told in three ‘trimesters’ that cleverly correlate with the pregnancy and Vince’s own growth during it. There are some thought-provoking introductions to every new chapter on philosophical topics such as time, space and theories that tie in nicely with the current state of his writerly mind. I could only imagine the profound conversations he once must have had with Lydia as this is her area of expertise. I also looked forward to the rare visits Vince made to his hoarder friend’s house. Jamal possesses a quirky and relaxed nature which is complimented by humble wisdom; while he smokes a joint he can rattle off his knowledge about all things deep and meaningful when the need arises.
The Blackbird Singularity is a brave and powerful book. I found the weight of Vince’s distress strangely hypnotic and couldn’t stop myself being drawn into the isolated world he found himself living in. It lays bare the spectrum of grief while offering a chink of light at the light at the end of a very dark tunnel.
(I received a copy of this title from the publisher in exchange for an unbiased review, with my thanks.)
(Courtesy of Amazon UK)
Wilven does a masterful job of keeping his readers as off-balance as his protagonist… an intense and satisfyingly off-beat examination of a man lost in a landscape of unresolved grief and his heroic fight to find his way back home.’ Melissa DeCarlo, author of The Art of Crash Landing
Vince stops taking his lithium when he finds out about his partner’s pregnancy. As withdrawal kicks in, he can barely hold his life together.
Somewhere between making friends with a blackbird in the back garden and hearing his dead son’s footsteps in the attic, he finds himself lost and alone, journeying through a world of chaos and darkness, completely unaware of the miracle that lies ahead.
Matt Wilven was born in Blackpool in 1982. After receiving an MA with Distinction in Creative Writing, he spent the next ten years honing his craft. His part-time jobs in this time included: bingo caller, ice-cream man, fishmonger, paintball operative, camel derby caller, soap seller, copywriter, rollercoaster operator, warehouse packer, old people feeder and DJ workshop coordinator. Fresh from burying a library of juvenilia beneath his ex-landlord s patio, he has emerged as a debut novelist with a distinct, accessible voice and an eye as keen for reality as it is the surreal.