Everything You Know by Zoe Heller

After the suicide of his troubled daughter, a British journalist heads out to recuperate in Mexico and flee the ghosts that still linger even after he was acquitted of the murder of his wife.

Everything You Know is a much better book than its title would indicate. Author Zoe Heller is well-known for Notes on a Scandal, which became a great movie with Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett. Everything You Know lacks that book’s tawdrily catchy premise, but goes much deeper into its exploration of human nature.

Willy once stood trial for the murder of his wife Oona. Though not found guilty, his daughters Sophie and Sadie severed all ties with him. Sadie has recently committed suicide and sent Willy her diary, which he is reading while convalescing in Puerto Vallarta after a heart attack. Willy’s career has flourished, but his personal life has not, and he’s increasingly unable to account for the creeping despair that inflects his every interaction.

This is a character portrait of a man who has no redeeming qualities, no charm or charisma, and no passions, yet Heller makes Willy utterly fascinating in his quest to figure out why he feels so guilty when he’s convinced he’s done nothing wrong. Heller is a fantastic writer and I look forward to her next effort.

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