Sarah Layden’s novel Trip Through Your Wires is a tale that slips between the past and the present like waves crashing on the beach. That interplay between past and present, which is sometimes maddeningly difficult to follow and other times seamlessly laid together, that drives the narrative. Layden’s book is as much a rumination on memory as it the story of Carey Halpern.
The story leaps between the past and the present.
In the past, Halpern joins a study abroad program in order to meet a young man named Ben who worked at a local pizza shop in Indianapolis. While Carey had never met Ben, she was slightly obsessed. Despite that narrative awkwardness, Carey and Ben eventually meet, fall in love, and spend their time bumming around Mexico with Ben’s friend Mike.
In the present, Halpern is forced to re-live the months, weeks, and days leading up to Ben’s murder, which remains unsolved to this day. Halpern, who’d returned home soon after the murder and before school year was finished, has never quite recovered. She’s a shellshocked, disembodied woman stumbling through life trying very hard to not feel.
As a reader, you’re never quite sure where you are with the Carey in the narrative. Layden doesn’t lay out the timeline for you, which creates a sense of unease in each chapter. I found myself asking “Where am I” quite a bit as I tried to place the Carey in her life. Generally, I dislike such narrative tricks, but that detachment from the timeline felt central to Carey’s journey as she herself asked “Where am I?”
While Carey’s story with Ben drove the action, in the end it felt less important than Carey’s personal journey through the times and spaces dominated by the expectations of those around her.