The last A. M. Homes book I read, The End of Alice, was a disappointment. It took an interesting kernel of an idea, the musings of a paedophile in prison, and left it unfurled. I approached this book, therefore, with a kind of sceptical curiosity. I would have read May We Be Forgiven, which won the Women’s Prize for fiction last year, but This Book Will Save Your Life was an amazon steal at 99p. Sad, but true, that the price of fiction does sometimes dictate my reading…
So with all of that as background I was pleasantly surprised by This Book Will Save Your Life. Despite being about a man’s mid-life crisis, This Book Will Save Your Life was wonderfully refreshing. Richard, white, in his fifties, rich and living alone in LA with a cleaner, a nutritionist and a personal trainer substituting for a social life, has a panic attack that wrenches him from his solitude and forces him to reconsider his life. The book becomes his fight to reconnect with life, family, desire, and most particularly his son with whom he hasn’t had regular contact for years. It feels a little like reading a Douglas Coupland novel: very American, faintly surreal and sceptically new age. Donuts, those sugary, fatty, carb diet disasters play a huge part in awakening Richard to emotions and feelings long suppressed and he finds himself behaving with an unusual altruism that muddles and brightens his life.
This Book Will Save Your Life is a quirky and well-crafted account of one man’s struggle to find himself, to be honest with himself. The careful writing and socially cushioned characters provide a safe environment for the reader, regardless of some of the personal dangers Richard encounters, and though that makes for a comforting read, the book ends up being more pleasurable than provocative. Despite my pleasure reading the book, I again come away from an A. M. Homes novel wanting more. She writes well enough to raise my expectations. I hope the next book of hers I read will meet those expectations.
Next week I’m reading Amaricanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, followed by Little Egypt by Lesley Glaister and Beauty by Sarah Pinborough.