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The Casual Vacancy
The Casual Vacancy
First edition worldwide cover
Author(s) J. K. Rowling
Country United Kingdom
Genre(s) Fiction, tragicomedy
Publisher Little, Brown and Company
Publication date 27 September 2012
Pages 503
ISBN 9781408704202

Local Pagford Parish Councillor, Barry Fairbrother, dies of an aneuryism in the car park of the local golf course and the inhabitants of the town begin to share the news with each other. Chaos ensues in deciding who should fill his chair, and whether they will choose to keep local council housing estate "The Fields" (including Bellchapel Addiction Clinic) a part of Pagford, or instead vote to have it join the city of Yarvil. This is the first main arc of the novel.

When the election date is announced, children of the candidates begin to take revenge on their parents for numerous reasons — the political affairs affect not only the adults. They do so by posting defamatory messages on the Parish Council's website. Andrew Price, son of Simon Price, is the first to do so after his father violently attacks him and his mother, by posting about Simon's stolen computer under alias "The_Ghost_Of_Barry_Fairbrother". Sukhvinder Parminder (who has also learned about SQL Injections, a form of hacking) uses the same method and alias to take revenge on her mother, Dr. Parminder Jawanda, claiming in her post that Parminder was in love with the deceased Barry Fairbrother. Stuart Wall also posts about his adoptive father, Colin Wall, revealing his intrusive thoughts about child molestation and joking that having spent so much time thinking about it, he must have had some interest in trying it. A fourth post is made, also by Andrew, informing that Howard Mollison has had an affair for many years with his business partner, Maureen. Howard's son, Miles wins the election, leading his wife Samantha to admit to him, after drunkenly molesting Andrew, that she no longer loves him.

The second main plot of the novel, is the life of Krystal Weedon, who lives in The Fields with her mother, Terri, a prostitute and heroin addict, and little brother Robbie. Kay Bawden, a social worker who has moved from London for her relationship with lawyer Gavin and is the mother of Andrew's crush Gaia, is determined for Terri to stop using drugs so as to keep Robbie. Terri, however, relapses, and her drug-dealer rapes Krystal. Krystal decides to start a family for herself and Robbie elsewhere, and has unprotected sex with Fats Wall in an attempt to become pregnant and receive support. During one attempt, Krystal leaves Robbie alone on a bench, and without her supervision he runs away. He passes Samantha who is walking alone after a fight with Miles, and Shirley Mollison, who is on her way to kill husband Howard in a desperate attempt for the attention Mary Fairbrother receives as a new widow. Robbie falls into the river, and Sukhvinder jumps in after him, cutting her leg on the stolen computer earlier thrown away by Simon and Andrew Price. The paramedic attempts to resuscitate Robbie for twenty minutes before declaring that Robbie is dead. Shirley returns home to find Howard collapsed after a heart-attack, running out of the room with Andrew's epi-pen that she planned to kill her husband with. She calls an ambulance twice, the first time being mistaken as calling for Robbie. Krystal is so distraught at Robbie's death that she locks herself inside her house and takes her mother's stash of heroin, committing suicide by overdose. The novel ends with Krystal and Robbie's funeral, where they play Krystal's favourite song, Umbrella by Rihanna, also played for Barry's funeral and which J. K. Rowling chose due the rap at the beginning of the song fitting Krystal's character:

Good girl gone bad —
Take three —
No clouds in my storms...
Let it rain, I hydroplane into fame
Comin' down with Dow Jones...

— Introduction to Umbrella