Break-ups, family tension and trying to deal with it

Christopher DiRaddo about universal emotional torments in The Geography of Pluto

After working on this book for 14 years, Christopher DiRaddo’s debut novel, The Geography of Pluto, tells the story of 28-year-old high school teacher Will Ambrose and his desperate attempt to hold on to something lasting as his world rapidly begins to change.

Will, born and raised in Montreal, is trying to figure out how to move on from his ex-boyfriend and come to terms with his mother’s colon cancer.

The book opens on Will returning home from a night out, drinking to forget his ex. He turns on the lights in the apartment, and everything is “exactly as [he] had left it earlier that evening.” Even though his apartment remains the same throughout the duration of the book, it highlights that the familiarity Will is looking for doesn’t come from his physical possessions. He craves his boyfriend and he wants to return to a time before his mother had cancer, but despite being in the same surroundings as back then, all they do is serve as a reminder of how much he misses a time when things were going well in his life. This is brought up several times in the book, reminding us how something as simple as a pillow or a kitchen table can evoke memories that have stuck with us over the years.

The book draws heavily on the city, which allows Montreal readers to feel truly immersed in this novel. While this book takes place in the ‘90s and the nightlife scene has changed quite a bit since then, all Montrealers can relate to going out on cold, snowy nights.

Will’s life in this novel is centred around three different people — his ex boyfriend Max, his mother, and his best friend Angie. Although Max broke up with him, Will is finding it impossible to move on. He tries to go out and meet new men, but through bad luck (and sometimes self-sabotage) he doesn’t connect with them the same way he did with his ex. This is another aspect of this novel that readers can quickly connect to — we either have gone through this ourselves, or have seen someone close to us go through this. We can also connect to having someone close to us with an illness as serious as cancer. His mother’s silence on the subject of her cancer, much like her silence about his sexuality, creates tension between the two. And Angie, his best friend for years, acts as both a motivator to move on with his life and a reminder of a time and lifestyle that Will has tried to leave behind, highlighting the complexity of dealing with changes in both your own being and the world around you.

This book was an emotional read, with a few steamy sex scenes thrown in. DiRaddo’s writing has you sympathizing with Will’s struggles right off the bat, and he creates many avenues by which readers can connect to the character. While I thoroughly enjoyed the book and found its portrayal honest and genuine, I found it lacked a certain something to keep me hooked; even though I wanted to know what happened, I felt no urgency to rush through the pages.

Rating: 8/10

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