8 CDs. 9 hrs. Dreamscape Media. 2014. ISBN 9781633793323. $59.99. 1 MP3-CD, Playaway digital, digital download. F
This bleak first novel, originally published in Britain in 2002, is receiving its first release in the United States to capitalize on the success of Baker's recent Longbourn. Claire Thomas is the titular "offcomer," Lancashire slang for an outsider who has trouble fitting in. British Claire follows her patronizing boyfriend to his hometown of Belfast in Northern Ireland but leaves him after a degrading sexual encounter. Remaining in Belfast, Claire marinates in a toxic mix of boredom and self-loathing as she works a dead-end job, starts an affair with a friend's boyfriend, and repeatedly self-harms with a razor blade. Eventually the woman makes a pilgrimage home to England where she finds a small measure of relief after learning more about her family's past. Narrator Nicola Barber is the only positive aspect of this production. She perfectly captures Claire's petulant depression and deftly shifts among the many regional accents.
VERDICT Baker's talent for capturing human behavior is wasted on this dreary, unrelenting chronicle of one helpless woman's misery.

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