“When I was fourteen my family had a nervous breakdown…”
It is 1997. To himself, Benjamin Carter is a thing drifted somehow out of its orbit. With the news that Great Aunt Pearl is dead, his summer is looking like yet another non-starter. There’s his summons to the clearance of her ramshackle house. His dad’s awkward pep talks. A toxic cocktail of over-zealous aunts and uncles. And then there’s the Church of the Holy Heavens—the space cult that’s been wooing Pearl for all she’s worth.
It was supposed to be simple: grieve, junk, funeral, home. But from the side-lines, Ben can see the cracks starting to show. When the search for a will goes off-beam, the Carters find themselves under siege by the property they all crave. Alone in the house together, the Carters’ lives lock into something unrecognisable and their pursuit of Aunt Pearl’s not-quite-worldly goods entirely consumes them.
“Not many writers would see the possibilities of crafting a novel out of a house clearance — but Matt Cook does so brilliantly in this funny, shrewd and satirical book…Cook is master of the judicious turn of phrase. His imagination is detailed and original.”
– The Spectator
“Inventive, tender and genuinely funny. Matt Cook’s brilliant debut is a hugely entertaining exploration of family, belonging, and the mysteries of the great beyond.“
– Adam Marek, author of Instruction Manual for Swallowing
“Fact: Matt Cook is a remarkable new literary voice and Life on Other Planets is cosmically good. With a unique vision and writing that brings to mind J.D. Salinger by way of Charlie Kaufman, he illuminates family in all its complexity—the mysteries, the conflicts, the fragile accords. Deeply funny, mystical, and poignant, Cook illuminates the vagaries of human nature, and his spiky descriptions delight. Here is an original writer with a bright future.“
– Mary Otis, author of Yes, Yes, Cherries
“Great Aunt Pearl’s house, disappearing under layers of junk is the seething, decrepit setting for this dark comedy of sickly gloom and psychic disintegration. Wandering through this fever dream, through the book’s pages, I sometimes wanted to run away from the dreadful people I found there but I felt compelled to stay and I’m glad I did. As Benjamin Carter’s family immerse themselves in a collective nervous breakdown I found myself willingly submitting to this strange, touching, beautifully written book.”
– Jeff Young, author of Ghost Town: A Liverpool Shadowplay
“In Matt’s stories, the mundane tumbles into captivating drama… we’re only ever one small step away from the unexpected.”
– Claire Dean, author of The Museum of Shadows and Reflections
“Matt’s style is as unaffected as his insight is uncanny … Families are ghost factories and everyday objects are charged with mystery in his stylish and timely debut.”
– Duke Haney, author of Death Valley Superstars: Occasionally Fatal Adventures in Filmland