Jarred McGinnis’ debut novel, The Coward, is a work of auto-fiction about a “fuck up” of a man who – having lost the use of his legs in an accident – is forced to confront his past. Back at the home he fled a decade earlier, he slowly rebuilds his relationship with his father – an alcoholic, who neglected him after the death of his mother.
The Coward is riotously funny. The protagonist and his father share a sardonic humour, which they unleash on the passers-by, who tilt their heads in faux sympathy and ask: “What happened to you, then?” “Nam, ma’am. Goddam VC booby trap took my fuckin’ legs,” McGinnis, the character, tells one. But the book is also a testament to our ability to forgive.
It is not clear how closely it mirrors the author’s life. But he understands addiction. “Everyone talked about their selfishness when they were drinking, but none of them talked about the selfishness of recovery,” his alter ego says about attending an AA meeting with his father. That’s surely a line born of experience.
The Coward by Jarred McGinnis is out now (Canongate £16.99)