RUPERT DASTUR, founder of the Cambridge Short Story Prize
DUKE HANEY, author of Death Valley Superstars: Occasionally Fatal Adventures in Filmland
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 sidelines, 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. As Ben comes face-to-face with death, a new person emerges: curious, uninhibited, free-falling. In Life on Other Planets, Matt Cook has created a startling portrait of a young man caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it. Comedies of English manners have rarely been darker.