Whiskey & Charley (NetGalley)
Twins Whiskey and Charley were identical in looks, but couldn’t have been more different in temperament. Whiskey, the first born, was athletic, brash, and daring as a child. As an adult, those same qualities served him well as an ad executive and his successes were many. Charley was quieter, timid, even, and he floundered as an adult, both in love and career. There wasn’t much Whiskey didn’t do better than Charley, it seemed.
Charley was named after Prince Charles, hardly, a nine-year-old thinks, an attractive namesake. Whiskey is really William, but when they were boys and enambored with a set of walkie-talkies. Charley easily learned the two-way radio alphabet: alpha, bravo, Charley … for once Charley had one over on his brother. No William in the alphabet, but there was a “whiskey” and so William took it on.
Writer Annabel Smith alternates between the story of the boys’ childhood and the present day vigil Charley holds at Whiskey’s hospital bedside. As close as they were as children, they drifted that much farther apart as adults. Each blames the other for the rift and at the time of Whiskey’s accident, they haven’t spoken for months.
We get Charley’s point of view and the reader, like Charley, begins to find Whiskey’s extravagant lifestyle (fast cars and fast women) distasteful. Whiskey is overbearing. Egotistical. Thoughtless. But as Charley faces (admittedly very reluctantly) the fact that the Whiskey he knew is probably gone, he longs for that very person he once despised.
And that’s really the reason to read Whiskey and Charley. Yes, the Australian setting is unique. Of course the complex characters captivate us. But Charley’s startling realization that his interpretation of events may not be the only one, that perhaps he himself had a hand in their estrangement, is profound.
And dare I say I’m guessing we would all be happier if we would only do the same.