Kris Ellis’ debut novel follows Matt Pearce, OCD sufferer, low-achiever, film fanatic and Jack Kerouac enthusiast, who reaches an existential crossroads. He finds himself looking back on a life thus far of dead-end jobs, binge drinking, encounters with aggressive locals, sessions with therapists, and failed relationships with alluring but `head-doing’ young teenage girls.
When one of these relationships, with an abused teenager called S., goes badly wrong, Matt flees the country and undertakes a Greyhound bus journey across the USA, partly to escape from S., partly as a pilgrimage to Kerouac’s final resting place, partly to pitch his draft indie movie script to an unsuspecting Hollywood, but mostly to find himself.
So you are probably thinking what I also thought when I saw the title of this book… Is that a real word? How do I pronounce it? What the hell does it mean? Well I assumed it was a made-up word, and I was wrong.
Definition of Temporoparietal: The temporoparietal junction (TPJ) is an area of the brain where the temporal and parietal lobes meet, at the posterior end of the Sylvian fissure.
Still not making sense? I thought so, basically the right temporoparietal junction is involved in the processing of information in terms of the ability of an individual to pay attention The left temporoparietal junction (lTPJ) contains structures of the brain that are involved in language cognition, processing, and comprehension of both written and spoken language.
Why is this the title of the book? I’m not 100% sure but the main character Matt, a young adult who is on a journey of soul searching is a worrier, has anxiety, OCD and over thinks. The book focuses on his thoughts and feelings with past relationships, jobs, family. So I guess as this book is about his thoughts on lots of different things it makes sense that is to do with the brain.
The main reason I picked up this book was because it has been described as a mix of my two favourite novels, On The Road by Jack Keroac and The Catcher in the Rye by J.D Salinger. I really enjoy a coming of age novel where the character is telling you he is finding his purpose in life but really, he is just bumming around and having a good old time whilst over thinking everything they have done or are doing. The narrator in this novel is exactly that. Matt is bored, doesn’t want a mediocre job and is running away from an ex-girlfriend, he decides to journey across America on a kind of pilgrimage to Jack Keroac, his favourite author in the world. The novel flicks from the present, where Matt is travelling around America, describing the current city he is in, the grey hound bus, the people, girls he meets and the dingey hotel rooms but also flicks to his past where he describes previous jobs, girlfriends and general life. Matt’s tone of voice was very much like a British Hauldon Caulfield (From Catcher in the Rye) but the novel also reminded me of Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity and Starter for 10 by David Nicholls. All these books contain a male young adult trying to find his way in the world, or what I like to call “floaters” just kind of bumming around a bit finding themselves, so if you like that kind of genre you will definitely enjoy this books. If you enjoy a strong plot line with lots of action this novel isn’t for you.
I really enjoyed a lot of Matt’s insights and the way he looked at the world, his honest, funny and sometimes naïve opinions are very similar to the way I think, so I felt as a character I really connected with him. His opinions on the grey hound bus and how he stopped people from sitting next to him were exactly what I used to do on the bus. Also when he describes his experience in the Job Center to claim benefits it was like describing my first time I went there. I always enjoy a book a lot more when I can connect with the characters and I really felt that all the way through the novel.
Close to the end of the novel Matt begins to describe his toxic relationship with ‘S’ (Sandy) who was the reason for fleeing the country. Sandy and Matt connect as they both have absent fathers and are both fragile and unstable mentally. Sandy more so, she has hyper manic-depressive order and mixed with Matt’s OCD, depression, anxiety and paranoia you can see that their relationship would never of worked out long term. Matt becomes very close to Sandy they do lots together, trust each other and have fun but as she is so unstable, and Matt has his own issues they become toxic and Matt resorts to alcohol making himself feel more depressed and anxious. As their relationship unfolds you realise Matt isn’t just a young adult trying to find his way in life, but he has serious problems. His OCD, compulsive behaviour, anxiety and depression made me feel sad and made me understand his actions throughout the novel. You discover why he leaves the country so abruptly and near the end of the novel I just feel sorry for him.
For me Temporoparietal was what I call a “nowhere” story, there is a loose plot line of Matt travelling across America but in fact it is more of a character study with Matt rambling his thoughts and opinions on life, girls, jobs and a lot abut Jack Keroac. I personally really enjoyed this novel as I have read things similar in the past, so it suits my taste.
If you do enjoy The Catcher in the Rye or anything like that then give this book a go. It’s Kris Ellis’ debut novel and I think it read like a very established novel and I would definitely read more of his work. Katie x