Tom Connolly’s dazzling second novel is a funny, turbulent, and heartfelt study of male relationships, and a glorious love letter to the city of New York.
Read first chapter
It is April in Manhattan and the destinies of four very different men are about to collide. Nineteen-year-old Finn has just arrived in the city with his irrepressible and volatile girlfriend, Dilly, determined to even the score with his older brother Jack for abandoning him in the UK in the aftermath of their parents’ deaths. Across town, successful gallery owner Leo Emerson is haunted by loneliness, unsettled by the contrast between his life and that of his brother-in-law and oldest friend William, who is enviably contented in his faith and his marriage.
When Finn wanders into Leo’s gallery, a series of unexpected and interconnected events unfold, changing the lives of all four men, for better or worse. Leo and William’s settled existences are overturned by events outside of their control, while Jack and Finn’s complex relationship reaches its long overdue showdown.
Beautifully orchestrated and richly comic, Men Like Air explores the romance and solitude of cosmopolitan life, the transformative power of art, and the impact we have on one another’s lives – and what happens when the ties that bind us are tested or broken. It is an intense and uplifting story of growth and renewal, mapping the complex workings of the human heart across the streets of New York City.
Tom Connolly is also the author of The Spider Truces.
Bookmunch20 September 2016
Men Like Air might begin like a clichéd modern love story, but it doesn’t stay that way for long. In fact, by beginning with two young lovers entering New York City on a bus, both seemingly escaping something horrible in their previous lives, Tom Connolly almost seems to be tricking us into expecting something standard and predictable. We might not mind the feeling of a tale well told too much, though, because from beginning to end the writing is beautiful, witty, and sharp.
Dilly, the young women in that New York bound couple, is such a captivating and recognisable character in the early chapters that you might well believe this work will have her at its very centre. But once again, that expectation is pushed aside. And it is when Dilly disappears from the main thrust of the narrative that we begin to see what this work is really about. Finn, her boyfriend, is one of four lost men that actually make this novel so involving. He has come to America not to make a new life with Dilly, but to confront Jack – the brother who left him behind following the tragic death of their parents.
Finn and Jack’s reunion is integral to this exploration of male relationships and psychology, and it is touching to see how their turbulent existence so far both keeps them apart and then brings them back together. Equally important to the novel’s purpose are Leo and William. Two long-time friends reaching the latter stages of their lives seem to cope better with the awkwardness that can be central to close male relationships, but in many ways that is only because they’ve become better at hiding it. Their importance to each other often goes unsaid, making the culmination of this work all the more emotional.
There is a plot to this wonderful work of fiction, but in many ways it’s secondary to the characters and the way that they evolve and interact. Connolly orchestrates the relationships in the most assured manner imaginable, making the most of every scene and sentence. It’s funny, frustrating, upsetting, and very true to life. It’s a contender for book of the year.View source
Daily Mail16 September 2016
Nineteen-year-old Finn arrives in New York from England, a young man on a mission — namely, to punish his successful older brother Jack for abandoning him to an abusive uncle after their parents’ deaths.
His visit is part brokered by Dilly, his crazy American girlfriend who simultaneously helps and hinders his task.
Finn is befriended by Leo, a British expat and owner of a lucrative art gallery, a man beset by loneliness and envious of his brother-in-law and best friend William, a committed Christian content in his faith and marriage.
Finn is that fiction staple, the stranger who rides into town and becomes the catalyst for a series of life-changing events for others. A major character is the city of New York itself; its sheer scale and noise, its sudden jumps from fabulous wealth to sordid poverty and its frenetic pace.
Men Like Air is not only thought-provoking and moving but also has some extremely funny moments, the highlight being Jack and Finn’s visit to Dilly’s prosperous, self-made parents — guaranteed to make you laugh out loud and worth the price of the ticket on its own.
Elle The AW16 Culture Edit: 12 New Books To Add To Your Shelfie12 September 2016
Male friendships are under the microscope in this love letter to New York. It's springtime in Manhattan and the lives of four men collide as a series of unexpected events unfold. Funny and refreshingly complex, Men Like Air highlights the power of art and the unpredictability of cosmopolitan living.View source
Tripfiction8 September 2016
This is April in the city, the city that never sleeps, the city that is dreamy and multifaceted, loud and vibrant, never dull.
Nineteen-year-old Finn flies in with his girlfriend Dilly. Where will they be staying? Certainly not in the scrubby apartment that Finn has organised. And his brother, Jack, is less than welcoming due to a severe head cold. But there is old history between the brothers following the death of both their parents.
New York City is a major character in this novel, the streets and avenues cradle the lines of the narrative and it is against this backdrop that Finn begins to find his feet. The characters navigate the city, uptown, downtown, across the water, up to 10th Street and on, from the crockery and old T shirts to the canvases and installations beyond… Finn strays into Leo’s gallery and the book opens up to explore relationships that morph and meander across the grid of the city. It is a novel about friendship, art and understanding the person we might be… and of course about New York.
Finn finds himself heading out from Grand Central to Queens, and descends on the New Calvary Cemetery, and turns to look back at the mountain range of brick and steel peaks called Manhattan. There are just wonderful turns of phrase that capture the feel of the city and the nuances of everyday life, at which Tom Connolly excels. You can tell that he is not only an author, but also a film maker, his prose has a very visual quality to it.View source
Bookbag8 September 2016
One April in Manhattan, the destinies of four very different men are about to collide. Nineteen year old Finn has just arrived in the city along with his volatile girlfriend Dilly, determined to even the score with his older brother Jack for abandoning him in the UK in the aftermath of their parents' deaths. Across town, successful gallery owner Leo Emerson is haunted by loneliness, unsettled by the contrast between his life and that of his brother in law and oldest friend William, who is content in both his faith and his marriage. When Finn wanders in to Leo's gallery, a series of unexpected and interconnected events unfold, changing the lives of all four men together.
I've only visited New York once, a good ten years ago now. Even then though, I was blown away by how much character the city had. It was so, so different from anywhere I'd been before, that I've had a long held urge to visit again, and don't doubt that I will do in the next few years. Thankfully though, through a read of Men Like Air, author Connolly successfully transported me there for a brief period, and features the city as a living, changing main character alongside the four men.
This is a tender and moving read, easily reaching the core of these men and exploring their respective psyches in a probing yet gentle and respectful manner, and overall it works incredibly well as a conversation about Men, and what makes them tick. Adding to that a layer of clever comedy, at times witty and at times almost slapstick, which combined with the deep emotions and tenderness of the main plot, leads to a book that had me crying with laughter one moment, and close to tears of sadness the next – it's that powerful a read.
All of the men are immensely likeable, all flawed, and all relatable – and it's genuinely a pleasure to spend a few hours in their company when reading. In fact, all of the secondary characters are very well drawn too – the only one who got on my nerves somewhat was Finn's girlfriend Dilly – and that was definitely a choice on the authors' part. Decisions these characters make provide fantastic moments throughout the book, and the air of unpredictability throughout is both charming and engaging – making this a must read book.View source