Banishing Verona (2004)

by Margot Livesey

Like The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time — another recent book featuring a protagonist with Asperger's syndrome — Banishing Verona succeeds to a large extent because its socially challenged star is so endearing. Zeke is 29, a college graduate in London who paints houses for a living because he couldn't cope with the people aspect of accounting, his major. He's the only child of parents who are self-absorbed and impatient with his timidity and obtuseness.

Zeke is painting a house when a pregnant young woman shows up claiming to be the niece of the absent owners. Not good at judging the truth from lies, Zeke lets her bed down. He finds he can talk to Verona better than to any therapist, and on the evening of their second day, he shares the bed with her. But when he arrives for work the next morning, Zeke finds that Verona has disappeared as mysteriously as she arrived.

Verona has problems of her own. She's trying to track down her unscrupulous brother because his financial shenanigans have brought her threatening visitors. In the rest of the book Verona tries to explain and atone to Zeke for bolting but makes matters worse as she has Zeke chasing but missing her while she chases brother Henry across the ocean.

The plot is a stretch — and the romance may be, too — but Zeke's character makes Banishing Verona a triumph. He and Verona are equally featured, with his sections and her sections alternating, but it's Zeke who wins your heart. The young man who supposedly lacks people skills in fact always chooses the caring thing, whether it's doing his best for his distressed parents or putting aside his fear of flying to answer a summons to Boston. That he and Verona will make it long-term is far from certain, but Zeke can be assured that his "disability" need not keep him from love. 


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