Tuesday, December 9, 2008

This Book Will Save Your Life

I recently finished US author A.M.Home's book This Book Will Save Your Life. I had heard quite a bit of buzz about her over the years, but had never got around to reading her, and I found this one in Borders on a day when I was somewhat lost as to what to buy.

I loved the tone of this novel - sparse and satirical and deadpan. It is about a wealthy day trader living in the Hollywood Hills who has become completely disconnected from the world around him. He barely leaves his beautiful home, has virtually no relationship with his family, including a son who lives in New York, and has outsourced everything that would keep him engaged with the world to housekeepers, nutrionists, fitness instructors, interior designers etc. A great satire on the weird world of LA, the main character Richard Novak's life takes a dramatic turn when he has what he thinks is a heart attack and ends up in hospital. From there on in he begins to reconnect with the world through a series of bizarre (and sometimes apocalyptic) events and encounters with interesting characters. The book really hits its stride in the latter part when Richard's son arrives in LA as part of his summer break and confronts his father over his unavailability and repressed love.

Homes manages to make all the bizarre plot twists and turns (like a horse getting trapped in a sink-hole, and Richard befriending a JD Salinger like reclusive famous author) very believeable, and the book certainly managed to hold my interest right until its strange ending.

It was funny, it was weird, it was uplifting and it was ultimately very hopeful. My main gripe with the book was that I would have liked to have read more about the son. Some people may also find reading about an uber wealthy person changing their life by giving money away a little self-indulgent or just plain irritating, but I guess rich LA traders deserve to have their story heard just as much as anyone. And the Hollywood weirdness of the novel certainly provided a lot of entertainment value.

I've passed this book onto a colleague now, so I hope I haven't done her a disservice as This Book Will Save Your Life was panned by a lot of the US critics (although it was a Richard & Judy pick in the UK). It certainly didn't save my life, but it didn't do me any harm either.

Published by Granta.

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