I Have Some Questions for You: A Novel
“Makkai’s elegant writing carries the reader along. . . . Excellent!”
Rebecca Makkai’s I Have Some Questions for You moves back and forth between 1995 and the present as our narrator tries to solve a 20-year-old murder. This fascinating novel is part murder mystery, part penetrating character study, and part critique of sexual abuse in educational settings.
Makkai’s narrator, Bodie Kane, was an outsider at Granby, an elite New Hampshire prep school. Somewhat numbed by her own tragic family history, Bodie was happy observing from the background—happy to be stage manager of Camelot rather than a performer. Twenty years later, Bodie is a successful producer and creator of blogs. Eager to have a break from her marital difficulties, she returns to Granby to teach a two-week course on blog creation. The minute she returns to campus, she is drawn into an obsession with the murder of Thalia Keith, her Granby roommate, that happened right after that performance of Camelot.
Thalia’s body was found in the indoor swimming pool. Why wasn’t she celebrating with her boyfriend and fellow cast members? More important, who killed her and why? Thalia’s murder has been the subject of much online speculation, but Bodie’s interest wasn’t piqued until she returned to the scene of the crime. Thalia’s death becomes the center of a swirl of memories of Bodie’s life at Granby.
Bodie and her students are reopening a closed case. Omar Evans, the school’s athletic trainer, was convicted of the crime and is in state prison. The police looked no further than this young Black man. After all, there was damning DNA evidence and a coerced confession that Omar later denied. Isn’t it more likely that Thalia was killed by her jealous boyfriend or by the married music teacher with whom she was having an affair? Wasn’t the music teacher’s relationship with this 16-year-old girl a crime to be exposed and punished? Bodie is so obsessed with his guilt that most of her first-person narration is written as if it were a letter to him.
We see Thalia’s murder not only through Bodie’s eyes, but through the memories of students who were there 20 years ago and who, unlike Bodie, have moved on from the event. We also see the murder through the eyes of the new crop of Granby students who come to this past crime with their 21st century attitudes.
At the same time, Bodie is dealing with her feelings about her husband, from whom she is separated, but who lives next door, and about the handsome married Israeli with whom she has been having an affair. Now 40, Bodie’s own life is in a state of transition.
Makkai’s last brilliant novel, The Great Believers, demonstrated her ability to create vivid portraits of large, complex social groups and to analyze the links between past and present. Again, in I Have Some Questions for You, Makkai, depicts a web of social relations, but we also get carefully drawn pictures of the individuals past and present with whom Bodie interacts. Makkai is always interested in the limits of our understanding of the people in our lives. Bodie realizes how little she understood her roommate Thalia Keith or the dynamic music teacher who loomed so large in both Thalia’s and Bodie’s lives. Trying to solve a mystery only leads the detective to more mysteries.
As always, Makkai’s elegant writing carries the reader along. With I Have Some Questions for You, Rebecca Makkai has written another major work of fiction that raises questions about the word community. Excellent!