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Characters Plumb Emotional Depths in “The Passenger”

Characters Plumb Emotional Depths in “The Passenger”

"What feels like the promise of a page-turning mystery gradually evolves into an introspective exploration of the psyche."

Post Author

Eric Job

JCPL Technical Services Manager Tyler Wilmoth reviewed the new novel by Cormac McCarthyThe Passenger, in Johnson City Press this weekend. If you didn’t see it in the paper, you can read it below!

Sometimes we must embrace the darkness and the cold and accept that these things are a part of life. This notion kept infiltrating my mind as I absorbed every page of Cormac McCarthy’s new novel, The Passenger. To those who have enjoyed his previous works, the writing style we have come to love is present, but the contents are quite different from what I expected. The book has a freshness and reinvention I did not see coming.

The Passenger is truly a unique creation, and tricky to summarize. There are several different pieces to the story that are delivered in an unpredictable pattern throughout the book. What feels like the promise of a page-turning mystery to be unraveled gradually evolves into an introspective exploration of the psyches of the main protagonist and his sister.

Feelings run deep in this melancholy narrative, which is set mostly in Louisiana in the 1980s. The plot follows Bobby Western, a man haunted by his complex relationship with his sister Alicia and his hard-to-stomach knowledge of his father’s past. The main story opens with Western taking a dive to investigate a plane crash in which he finds the plane’s black box and a single passenger missing. He begins trying to find answers to his questions about the crash.

This search for answers is the catalyst for Western’s journey of wading through the depths of his own life. The study of Western’s character made me reflect on my own life and the interminable difficulties many of us face.

There is an experimental quality to this novel, which is McCarthy’s first in 16 years. However, the style that has made him a seasoned and celebrated author can also be found in this work. McCarthy’s humor is present, although dark at times, and the purposefully disjointed storytelling gives us the feeling of being in the room with McCarthy the first time these words poured onto the page.

This story is a reminder that the stories we read are just small sections of characters’ fully lived lives. Not every story has an ending with a resolution, or at least the type of resolution we are expecting. This is the case with Bobby Western’s story.

The Passenger is a work of art that at first glance you may think is not for you. But this story has something that I think is for everyone: allowing your mind to be opened to the wonders and mysteries of the world by going on a completely new journey. The Passenger is a fine place to start.

The Passenger was published in October 2022. A companion novel, Stella Maris, was released in December. It follows the story of Western’s sister, Alicia. Both The Passenger and Stella Maris are available in our collection.

Your Library’s staff loves giving book recommendations! If you need something new to read, we can help find books and authors that are perfect for you. Call (423) 434-4450 or drop by 100 West Millard Street to talk with a librarian. We also regularly highlight and recommend books on Facebook and Instagram, so follow us!