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A Long Way Down

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.

A Long Way Down

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John M. Grohol, Psy.D.

Dr. John Grohol is the founder & CEO of Psych Central. He is an author, researcher and expert in mental health online, and has been writing about online behavior, mental health and psychology issues -- as well as the intersection of technology and human behavior -- since 1992. Dr. Grohol sits on the editorial board of the journal Computers in Human Behavior and is a founding board member and treasurer of the Society for Participatory Medicine. He writes regularly and extensively on mental health concerns, the intersection of technology and psychology, and advocating for greater acceptance of the importance and value of mental health in today's society. You can learn more about Dr. John Grohol here.

APA Reference
Grohol, J. (2016). A Long Way Down. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 25, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 17 May 2016
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 17 May 2016
Published on Psych All rights reserved.