Nick Hornby is an author who can take the usually-depressing topic of suicide and turn it into an engaging, thoughtful novel about four people who find themselves in an unexpected situation that brings them together, first emotionally, then socially. Wonderfully written and engaging, I identified with the main characters in the book almost immediately. Frank discussions about emotions and depression are the mainstay here, not shallow Hallmark insights.
Upon realizing that suicide is no longer an option in one character’s life, he says,
In a way, it makes things worse, not better…. Telling yourself life is shit is like an anesthetic, and when you stop taking the Advil, then you really can tell how much it hurts, and where, and it’s not like that kind of pain does anyone a whole lot of good.
Life is like that — a lot of unexpected pain when you least expect it and everything seems to be going fine. Suicide is a sense that the pain (and life) is so overwhelming, the only solution is to stop living and just stop trying to deal with it. Hornby catches this insight and helps people explore it in very real, very eloquent fashion through these four characters.
The discussions are set against the four characters’ lives, as they relive how they got to where they are when we meet them, and then moving forward as they live independently, yet in connection, of one another. The stories are engaging and bring you closer to each character, although I suspect the diversity of their lives is also meant to ensure that everyone who reads the book will relate to at least one of them.
This is not some academic or typical philosophical discussion of suicide, nor a book where all the characters live happily ever after. Hornby breathes a refreshing breath into the subject matter of depression and suicide, without really ever bringing the reader down. Instead, you feel like you were taken on a fairly brief journey in these four characters’ lives, and learn a little about human nature (and perhaps ourselves) in the process. I highly recommend this book for anyone looking for a break from the usual “light” or topical reading in their rotation.