By G. Robert Frazier
If you’ve ever wondered if Big Brother is watching you, you’d know how Jeffrey O’Keefe feels. A professor at New York University following a ten-year stint at Oxford University in England, O’Keefe is the unfortunate narrator in Patrick Flanery’s third novel, I Am No One ($16, Tim Duggan Books).
Though his return to Manhattan is a homecoming for him, and a chance to renew his role as father to his grown daughter, he feels out of place and, ultimately, alone. Why then would someone suddenly take a keen interest in everything about him, going so far as to send him boxes full of his internet browsing history, financial records, and more? When a former student shows up at his door on more than one occasion, O’Keefe’s suspicions – real or imagined – intensify, as does the plot.
O’Keefe initially fears he may be losing it. That maybe his years are catching up with him and he is beginning to show the first signs of dementia or Alzheimer’s. But the evidence that someone is watching him is all too real and he begins to obsess over every detail of his life, past and present, in an effort to learn the truth. The further he dwells on it, the more paranoid and anxious he becomes. Every encounter, every conversation, becomes suspect in a larger conspiracy.
Flanery takes his time in developing the story, slowly building scene after scene and puzzle upon puzzle. As a result, it takes patience on the part of the reader as the novel reaches its ultimate revelation. Part of the pleasure of the book is getting lost in O’Keefe’s internal struggle and reveling in his frequent confrontations with his former student.
At the very least, the book will make you second guess your online social activities and question who might be watching your every move.
Note: I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for this review.