“All right.” Eric laughed. “Mom’s nuts.”
Eric Airie is a brain surgeon. He’s examining his mother who says she’s seeing ghosts. He can’t find anything wrong with her so he declares her crazy though the other person in the room, his brother Pilot, appears to be the one going through the psychotic break.
So begins Raveling, a rather eery tale that turns into a whodunit. Author Peter Moore Smith creates a formidable character in Pilot (so named by his father who loved flying and was a pilot himself, but has removed himself from the family to live with a devoted younger woman and to fly his beloved biplane in the airs of sunny, stressless Florida).
Pilot is the easy scapegoat. He seems to be the one people have always had to worry about, taking on this role even more readily since the youngest child, a 6-year-old girl, went missing two decades ago. Her disappearance dissolved a marriage, sent Pilot on a life of roaming, and led Eric to become an affluent and admired brain surgeon. He sighs a lot, bearing the burden of caretaker for his younger brother, and now a mother who is seeing ghosts.
At the opening, Eric has brought Pilot back from Venice, California so that he can “recover.”
When I am alone my face disappears; I have no face at all. In someone else’s presence, especially Eric’s or my father’s, I am all face and no insides.
Pilot is adrift. His life has consisted of aimless wandering, impermanent jobs, and brief relationships. “I ask myself if failure can become insanity.”
Insanity of all kinds, physically induced, mental and emotional are all at play in Raveling. Smith draws in the reader to the point that one feels as though she is sitting right next to Pilot, feeling as he does his unmooring, doubt, fear, and despair.
Over time, the story does become more of a whodunit, but with uncomfortable and even disturbing revelations. At times, it feels as though we’re just caught in Pilot’s world, surrounded by a film of protective gel so that everything is a tad muffled, just this side of real, maybe so unbelievable that we have to remind ourselves that yes, families can be like this, and then, yes, the dark side of man’s nature can be found behind the most innocous screen—one that hadn’t appeared to be a screen at all.