There are echoes of both âThe Rosie Project' and âA Man Called Ove' in Joe Coomer's clever and poignant âThe Loop'. The main character, Lyman, has an orderly but closed-off life which is gradually forced open by events beyond his control. He drives a âcourtesy patrol vanâ on the graveyard shift, endlessly circling Fort Worth on its bypass freeway loop, assisting stranded motorists, picking up debris, and all too often removing and burying animals who have wandered onto the highway with fatal results. He fills his non-working hours with an endless succession of classes at the local community college, but has neither plan nor desire to achieve a diploma.
Then one day, as he sits looking out his screen door with his midafternoon âbreakfastâ coffee, a parrot appears out of nowhere, perches itself on the door handle, and invites itself into his life.
And not just any parrot. This one has a vocabulary ranging from philosophical biblical quotes to scatological insults with stops along the way for such nuggets as âI'm an eagleâ and âgive some to the parrotâ. Lyman quickly becomes obsessed with the bird, searching for its original owner in an attempt to understand the meaning behind some of its more obscure utterances.
This is because Lyman, up to this point, has lived a life in which absolutely nothing seemed to have any real meaning. Orphaned as an infant and reared in a succession of orphanages and foster homes, he observed that effects did not seem to follow causes. Good behavior and bad were randomly rewarded or punished by some faceless fate, and a life devoted to endlessly circling the same loop of asphalt seemed as meaningful or meaningless as any other occupation. Therefore, the notion that the parrot is somehow providing information that will reveal some deeper meaning and pattern to life is irresistible to him.
The search for the parrot's previous owner (or owners, as it turns out) begins with a quirky female librarian bearing a 1910 telephone book, and ends in a way that is both satisfying and surprising. Along the way, Lyman begins to see that the patterns he's been searching for don't have to carry hidden meanings in order to be real, and that the most important way to live well may be to get off the loop and open his life to the new and unexpected.
Coomer has written an engaging tale, and if he sets up an immense coincidence to begin to bring things to closure, he can be forgiven. For one thing, the arc of the book has been moving in this direction all along, and for another, the reader is rooting for a happy ending for everyone involved (human and otherwise).
Fun book to read, a quirky romance along with the mystery of a found parrot. They made a movie of this book!! It is "A Bird of the Air." (2011)