I was so happy, with the world seemingly going mad outside, to read this humorous and charming book with such a distinctive lead character. This is the first time that Herod ‘Rod’ Pinkney has fallen in love with someone he’s seen on television, apart from that passing crush on the late-night presenter of Sky News. This is definitely the first time he’s flown across the Atlantic to find them, but he’s very sure this is love and he’s destined to marry Daisy, who he saw on a ten year old episode of Judge Judy. This is Rod’s story, in his own words, guided by a man who collects glasses in the local pub. Rod is an unlikely hero, starting out as a ‘disappointment’ to his late parents, whose deaths left him a millionaire. He lives comfortably in London with a basement extension that houses his large collection of books as well as a man from next door called Donald who looks like Charles Manson. Donald fought in tunnels during the Vietnam War and now has a purpose built tunnel into Rod’s basement so he can breakfast on the grapefruit banned by his wife. Just occasionally, he also uses the basement to practice his trombone. On Thursday nights he forms a duo with Rod’s Peruvian friend Edmundo who plays pan pipes. However, to start their evening the three friends always open a bottle of wine and watch Judge Judy, which is how Rod first sets eyes on Daisy Lamprich.
If all this sounds a little eccentric to you, you’d be right. This is a gloriously eccentric book, filled with interesting characters and all narrated with Rod’s deadpan delivery and unique logic. There are so many laugh out loud moments, where Rod has no idea that he’s given anything but the logical answer. He worries about bringing his friends Donald and Edmundo together because one fought vehemently against communism in Vietnam whereas the other fought for communists in Peru. As it happens they get on famously, because they’re both musicians, both veterans and have mellowed with age. Until they met, Rod observed that that the only thing they have in common is being married to large women. Aside from the basement extension Rod’s home is kitted out with every conceivable disability aid. There are stairlifts to each level, bathrooms with grab rails, a wheel-in shower and a bath lift. He even invests in a mobility scooter to get around town, which gives him an eight mile radius. He doesn’t however, have a disability. He’s simply thinking ahead, to him it seems perfectly logical to conserve his energy now so his body doesn’t wear out. In fact once he’d had the stairlift idea he was a salesman’s dream, simply agreeing to every new modification suggested.
In these scenes we see he’s actually very vulnerable. I think underneath the light as air writing style and gentle humour the book does have something important to say. Rod’s money takes away any constraints on what he can do and spend, but given different economic circumstances I can imagine him getting into real trouble. He’s very trusting and therefore very lucky in the friends he meets. Although, that does work both ways – there probably aren’t many people who would make friends with a stranger they find tunnelling into their basement. Rod doesn’t judge, and his reward is an eclectic, but incredibly loyal group of friends. They form a supportive community that felt quite poignant at a time when we’re creating new connections and trying to support our neighbours. I loved being inside Rod’s head and seeing the world as he does, his narration reminded me of Eleanor Oliphant or The Rosie Project. I was totally immersed in his world and I was frequently chuckling to myself. It was the perfect antidote to the lockdown for me and I heartily recommend spending some time with Rod Pinkney, who was far from a disappointment to me.