J.K. Rowling's still got it. When one man suddenly dies in a small town where everybody knows everybody, no one can predict what will happen or how much of an impact this man really has had on this town.
The Casual Vacancy is a political term, but it becomes obvious within the first few pages that this is not just a story. Rowling cleverly presents us with a picture of poverty. Barry Fairbrother was working on an article featuring Krystal Weedon when he literally drops down dead. Every member of small town Pagford races to be the first one to tell someone else about his death. His seat on the council is suddenly empty and either you are hiding a nasty secret or you are trying to fill that seat or both.
Rowling knows each of her characters so well she has them down to their intimate lives, nervous ticks and violent habits. The clever ones in Pagford are the teenagers who both tear this town apart and are the glue that sticks this town together, for better or worse. Putting aside politics, Rowling uses Rihanna's "Umbrella" song to punctuate the theme of protection. There is a real umbrella in this story and Barry Fairbrother is at the top. Each member of town (Mary, Krystal, Andrew, Sam, Howard, etc.) is connected to him at the tips of the umbrella, branched out below him. Krystal Weedon is Rihanna and Barry Fairbrother is Jay-Z. Yet it could easily be reversed. They need each other. They keep each other safe and sound. And in the end, the only way to be together is in death.
This novel is not just a political statement. It's a beautiful piece of art.