Louis Malone was disfigured by a fire at the age of sixteen, and has lived as a recluse since that time. Iris Shula is an unattractive nurse who has been ostracized for her entire life due to her physical appearance. One day, Louis Malone falls out of his window, and meets Iris during his hospital stay. Amazon will have you believe that these two hit it off in this love story that will “make you laugh and that will break – and remake – your heart.” Ummm…no. I was expecting a love story, as that’s how the novel was publicized. However, that aspect of the novel was severely lacking and just plain awkward. In fact, this entire novel was severely lacking and just plain awkward.The Man in the Window deals with concepts such as isolation, monstrosity, and otherness in a delicate and intriguing manner. That being said, these themes should have been the focal point of the novel, but they are completely overshadowed by the superfluous flow of minor characters that overrun the town of Waverly. These characters are certainly colorful, but in an obnoxious and self-aware kindof way. Moreover, the Audible narrator (Jeff Cummings) makes them impossible to appreciate on any level, as each characterization sounded like a varying degree of nails on a chalkboard.
Cohen plays with the situations of the main characters through a parallel of opposition: Iris is born with a physical appearance that has been culturally defined as ugly, and has dealt with it all her life; Louis lived half of his life in considerable normalcy and is left scarred by an accident. One would think that these characters could learn from each other, but their actual interaction is limited and less than inspiring. This is the major plot issue that is left unresolved, but not the only one. The subplot involving Louis’s mother and Iris’s father is also left up in the air. It is suggested that these two are forming a relationship of their own, but, like the bond between Iris and Louis, the notion of an actual love story is dubious at best.
Although The Man in the Window moves at a decent pace, it really starts dragging towards the end. Painfully dragging. In spite of the drawn out final chapters, though, Cohen still manages to rush his tale into a sloppily ambiguous conclusion, effectively destroying what could have been a compelling novel. Needless to say, I will not be reading any of Cohen’s other works.