A. M. Homes This Book Will Save Your Life

ISBN 13: 9780143038740

This Book Will Save Your Life

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9780143038740: This Book Will Save Your Life
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Since her debut in 1989, A. M. Homes has been among the boldest and most original voices of her generation, acclaimed for the psychological accuracy and unnerving emotional intensity of her storytelling. Her ability to explore how extraordinary the ordinary can be is at the heart of her touching and funny new novel, her first in six years. This Book Will Save Your Life is a vivid, uplifting, and revealing story about compassion, transformation, and what can happen if you are willing to lose yourself and open up to the world around you.

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About the Author:

A.M. Homes was born in Washington D.C. graduated from Sarah Lawrence College and the University of Iowa, lives in New York City and teaches at Princeton University. Her work appears in ArtForum, Granta, The Guardian, McSweeney’s, Modern Painters, The New Yorker, The New York Times, Electric Literature, Playboy, and Zoetrope. She works in television, most recently as as Co-Executive Producer of Falling Water and Stephen King’s Mr. Mercedes, and is a contributing editor to Vanity Fair. She is the  recipient of awards including the Guggenheim, NEA, and NYFA fellowships. Her most recent novel, May We Be Forgiven, won the Women’s Prize for Fiction, 2013, and has been optioned for film by Unanimous Entertainment.

From The Washington Post:

No, it won't. A.M. Homes's This Book Will Save Your Life can't even generate enough energy to save itself.

This tepid satire about modern America begins with Richard Novak, a wealthy day trader, having a panic attack and being rushed to the hospital with "incredible pain" all over his body: "He lay there realizing how thoroughly he'd removed himself from the world or obligations, how stupidly independent he'd become: he needed no one, knew no one, was not part of anyone's life. He'd so thoroughly removed himself from the world of dependencies and obligations, he wasn't sure he still existed."

That existential crisis could lead to great pathos or great comedy, but over the next 300 pages, Richard meanders through a series of chance encounters, reaching out with new interest and generosity to strangers who never become much more than their costumes. There's the Middle Eastern owner of a donut shop, the housewife crying in the grocery store, the handsome movie star, the reclusive '60s novelist. Richard befriends them all with low-key good cheer and somehow manages to change his life completely with about as much effort as I've expended switching shampoos.

He gives away new cars, pays for his maid's hip replacement, sends the weary housewife to a spa. "This is the person he wants to be," Homes writes. "He wants to be able to do this for others, strangers, it doesn't matter who, and he wants to be able to do it for himself." His Good Samaritan impulse also inspires a series of impromptu rescue operations: A horse is trapped in a sinkhole, a hostage is trapped in a trunk, a woman is trapped in a bad marriage. These episodes are mildly amusing (for 15 minutes, he's a national celebrity, a punch line on Letterman), but because Richard is so imperturbable and his success so firmly guaranteed, the scenes never develop any real suspense.

The larger problem, though, is the dullness of Homes's satiric edge. She portrays Los Angeles as a city collapsing -- morally and physically -- but it's Apocalypse Lite. Anyone who wants to make fun of bizarre diets, ludicrous luxuries, New Age fads and crippling exercise regimes has to stay ahead of the ever-escalating real-world grotesqueries of modern life. If you're as isolated and disconnected as Richard, you'll find the details here surprising and hilarious, but otherwise, it's yesterday's news.

Only in the last third of the novel, when Richard's 17-year-old son arrives after many years of separation, does the story make an emotional connection that doesn't seem contrived. Richard finally has a chance to save the one person he should have been concerned about from the start, but two-thirds of a novel makes for a long prologue. And when his son finally confronts him with resentments saved up through adolescence, it's a shriek of psychological pain like being awakened by a firecracker: shocking but not very illuminating.

Save yourself.

Reviewed by Ron Charles
Copyright 2006, The Washington Post. All Rights Reserved.

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Other Popular Editions of the Same Title

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ISBN 10:  1862079331 ISBN 13:  9781862079335
Publisher: Granta, 2007
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9780670034932: This Book Will Save Your Life

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