I feel as though The Watchman by Matt Langford put me under a spell. I was so absorbed in the book that I am having real word reentry problems. That is really how you know that an author has a great sense of character and I can wholeheartedly recommend The Watchman for this very reason.
The Watchman is not for the faint of heart. It is a first person account of Adam, a teenager who lives with his parents, his brother, and sister. Adam has an unnamed mental disability that does not allow him to communicate well with others. He loves few things: his family, his favorite drink (Pom-Pom Parlars), and what he calls his “watches”. During these watches, he makes observations about the world.
Over the course of the novel, many things change in Adam’s world. He begins to go to school, his siblings grow up, and his family dynamic changes. Adam cannot fully understand any of these happenings; nor can he communicate his rage and frustration in a logical way. While, as a reader, I was privy to his thought processes, so I knew why Adam does what he does, it was fascinating to read how these internal conflicts played out in the physical realm of Adam’s home and in his relationships. As Adam’s understanding of an increasingly complicated world decreases, his rages and frustration reach a boiling point and the change he has been fighting against leads to the biggest change in Adam’s life.
I cannot stress enough how enlightening this book was for me. I truly understood Adam and his reactions to his environment. From minor lacks in decorum to high rage, Adam’s thinking is fascinating. It is clear that Langford knows his stuff. I really felt as though I understood Adam and his motivations. As his behavior devolves, I truly sympathized with Adam’s feelings of powerlessness and loss.
The book does have a few quirks. Some of the vocabulary Adam uses is quite confusing at first. The ending is quite ambiguous (though very moving), and I think some editing would have been beneficial to streamline some passages. There is a great deal of profanity in the book, but it is there for a reason and it added to the overall arc of the story.
I have never read a book like The Watchman—one that has brought me so close to the experiences of a child with a mental disability that is severe. The Watchman is an important book. I was disturbed by it, moved by it, and ultimately in awe of the talent of Matt Langford. This was a terrific read.
*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Regina