There are elements of humor and horror, all washed over with the eternal hubris of the human condition. That is, this is a book that will make you laugh, scare you, and touch you in a special way that only novels with terrifically defined characters can.
Paul Trilby is a deep-thinking ex-college professor who has been reduced to writing how-to manuals for the state of Texas. He is likeable, charming, and has been reduced to a state of misery through infidelity and bad choices. In other words, he is everyman.
This is how his story begins: "One brutally hot summer's morning, Paul Trilby - ex-husband, temp typist, cat murderer - slouched sweating in his t-shirt on his way to work, waiting behind the wheel of his car ofr the longest red light in central Texas."
It is a delightful opening sentence and reveals to us that this Mr. Trilby is in for one very long literary journey. We learn what he is and how he probably deals with his life (slouched sweating). Indeed, his tale is an uphill battle fighting off co-workers, girlfriends, and ghosts.
This is much more than the saga of a man dealing with a nightmare of a job; we've read that story. No, this one involves finding meaning in a dead-end position while simultaneously fending off the living day-mare of the ghost of the long dead cat he drowned years earlier and also trying to maintain his sanity while encountering pale gentleman with teeth sharpened to knife-end points.
He is hapless though courageous; a pessimist though someone hoping for something better.
Hynes has fashioned an engaging and original book. If you thought the scariest thing in life was working at a mind-numbingly boring job, then read on. After finishing this, you'll never feel happier that you're not Paul Trilby.