Monday, October 17, 2011

This Book Will Save Your Life

The audio book version of This Book Will Save Your Life (by A.M. Homes) benefits from the fine reading given it by Scott Brick.  That Brick manages to give so many eccentric characters a distinctly recognizable tone of voice is, in fact, remarkable.  And, because these characters are the best thing the novel has going for it, Brick’s contribution is particularly important to one’s overall perception of the novel.

The book opens just as Richard Novak is suffering through a life-changing experience.  He is on the phone with a rather blasé 911 operator who insists on methodically interviewing him about the pain he his experiencing rather than taking his word that he needs immediate help.  The pain, so bad that Richard is even unsure precisely where he hurts, does ultimately land him in a Los Angeles emergency room.  The Richard Novak that emerges from that emergency room will not be the same man who entered it.

Prior to his painful reawakening, Richard was content with his life of relative ease and isolation.  He lived alone, working the stock market from his expensive home, totally dependent upon the services of a daily housekeeper/cook and personal trainer to keep him going.  The problem, as he sees it now, is that he is close to no one, including the teenage son he barely knows. 

A.M. Homes
Richard’s need to reconnect with humanity will lead him to a series of bizarre experiences involving those he encounters over the next few days.  Among Richard’s new intimates are: a Hollywood star who seems to need a new friend as badly as Richard; a young mother whose family completely takes her for granted; a cheerful donut-shop owner/philosopher; and the J.D. Salinger-type writer who happens to live next door to Richard’s Malibu beach house rental.  As he reaches out to help whatever strays he encounters along the way, Richard suffers through the turbulence of trying to reclaim a relationship with his son just when his house begins to slide into a hillside sinkhole.

This Book Will Save Your Life works well as a tongue-in-cheek satire of the modern California lifestyle.  Richard’s sincere attempt to change his life for the better makes him an easily likable character, as are many of the characters to whom he attaches himself.  My one quarrel with the book’s plot is the ambiguous ending that comes before the book resolves its most climactic scene.  I am not one who is amused by the task of creating his own ending for a novel, instead believing that to be the author’s job.  This Book Will Save Your Life had me right up to the book’s last page – where it lost my affection and caused me to lower its rating.

Rated at: 3.0

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