Review of Locks by Ashleigh Nugent
The absolute marketing man's dream, I saw Ashleigh speaking about Locks on Twitter, read his interview in Bido Lito, and took myself off to News from Nowhere to see if I could get a copy of it.
After a bit of back and forth between me and the very patient staff (competing with an Irish accent in a mask, and me spelling L-O-C-K-S a fair few times), I was off with a brand new bright blue book in my paws for a wee Christmas present to me.
Locks follows Liverpool lad Aeon as he journeys to Jamaica to try and find a piece of himself in his heritage and family history, that he feels he is missing in Liverpool’s fictional suburb of Searbank. Aeon and reluctant cousin Increase land in a totally different world to their own, and Aeon embarks on his hero’s journey, hoping that something might solidify in him.
Aeon’s experience is brought together by memories from the classroom- a teacher giving a lesson about the hero’s journey that she is adamant that Aeon must go on, in order to become what he wants of himself. The hero's journey trope provides a literary arc to the story, and keeps a tight pace the whole way through the book, even when Aeon’s days become monotonous, slow and uneasy in the strongroom and prison.
Locks brings us through the displacement of being caught somewhere in the middle; too much of one, and never enough of the other, depending on where Aeon is. Aeon faces racism paralleling in two places; at home, where he is considered different, but doesn’t feel "Black enough", not knowing anyone from Toxteth, and in Jamaica, where he is called “White Man”, and his interest in Rasta culture is treated with disdain “You people should wash your dirty hair”.
We oscillate between emotions with Aeon; unease, anxiety, grief, bitterness, intrigue and the desperation to belong. It is a tale of inner conflict and hypocrisies, something which is restorative to see in a world in which seems to have lost a bit of respect for changing minds. Aeon struggles to define aspects of himself in both places, at points expresses hate for the very people he longs to belong to in Jamaica, until moving slowly towards the beginnings of acceptance of himself.
The balance of biting humour and real perceptiveness is something else, and I felt each emotion in the pit of me. Ashleigh's writing flows, brings characters directly to you with ease, and is hard to leave behind.