Howard traces the development of his characters with a deceptively light touch and a fine sense of humour.
Matt Howard's The Time is Now, Monica Sparrow.
You will need to go a very long way to meet a more diverse and interesting group of characters than the ones that populate Matt Howard’s novel, The Tine is Now, Monica Sparrow. Although many of them are likeable, you might need to overlook some of their eccentricities. The main players are Monica Sparrow, aspiring novelist and compulsive hoarder; Xavier Swift, avowed minimalist, employed as an editor by Wyatt Dean, a middle-tier publishing house; and Monica’s sister, Diane Meneksk, whose husband Jacob is Wyatt Dean’s head of sales. And there is Jamie Klimek, Monica’s step-brother and an aspiring abstract painter.
Howard traces the development of his characters with a deceptively light touch and a fine sense of humour. You share their regrets and participate in their achievements, as if they were your own friends or relations. And you enjoy their anecdotes:
'A customer at the head of the queue asked his kid where he got the baseball cap he had on.
"My dad gave it to me," the kid said.
"I’m your dad," the guy said.
"Oh yeah," the kid replied, pondering. "That’s right. I forgot. You knew Mum first."'
Some of the action takes place at the Wyatt Dean publishing house, allowing Howard the opportunity to describe how a book progresses from manuscript to publication:
'Xavier had spent most of the weekend running Jamie through the job description, how the book publishing industry was configured (a mystery to most, including many in the thick of it), and all the jargon that went alongside.'
While The Time is Now, Monica Sparrow has many light-hearted moments, and mildly satirises the publishing industry, it also deals with some serious issues. One of these is the way different people cope, or fail to cope, with the death of a loved one. Some healing processes are explored, including one brilliantly handled phenomenological episode. The subtle ways in which money equates to power but can be used to achieve a good outcome is illustrated in a couple of ways.
All of which is to say that The Time is Now, Monica Sparrow is a serious novel in disguise. It can be read without the need for deep thought or the contemplation of the matters it touches on. Or it can spark a deeper interest, and further investigation, into some of the fundamental issues that affect us all. It is one of those rare recently published books worth reading more than once.
Rating: 4 ½ stars ★★★★☆
The Time is Now, Monica Sparrow
By Matt Howard
Trade paperback 288pp
Rights: World Rights
Categories: Fiction, New and Recent
Publication Date: 01 /03 /2019