Reading Whitechurch is an experience. You don't so much read it as feel it. Chris Lynch's effortless rhythms infect your mind and draw you ever deeper into the tragedy that you know is coming.
In the most basic sense, this collection of short stories (that fit together and read like a book) is about three friends living in a small town. Pauly is rough on the edges and uncontrollable. Lilly, his girlfriend, is the local Reverend's daughter. Oakley is best friend to them both, a perpetual follower/leader and the main voice of the book.
The book alternates between poetry and prose, though the prose has an energy and flow much like poetry itself. While Pauly claims to be a poet (and will spill a poem out like other people say hello), it is Oakley's mother that used to be a poet and Oakley's poems that divide the chapters.
Each sentence builds on your sense of doom. Pauly's jealousy, Oakley's love of Lilly and Lilly's coming departure (to college) move the story inevitably closer to the climax. What happens isn't what you think will, but at the same time, it won't surprise you.
Along the way, you will become deeply involved in the life of the narrator, Oakley. He leads a life of quiet desperation and instability. He fittingly quotes from The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T.S. Eliot at one point: "Do I dare disturb the universe?"
My only wish is that the end of the novel were not so abrupt. When the terrible thing happens--that's it. Mr. Lynch leaves you wanting more. I want to know what the rest of their lives was like because he talked me into caring what happened to them.