Author: Keith Cronin
Genre: Fiction (Contemporary / Stroke / Family Secrets)
Publisher/Publication Date: Five Star (9/7/2011)
Source: TLC Book Tours
Did I finish?: I did, very quickly.
One-sentence summary: A thirty-four year old man wakes up from a six-year coma to discover his life, literally, will never be the same.
Do I like the cover?: I do -- I'm not wild about the design (the gigantic Gruen quote draws my eye more than the title and image, perhaps intentionally) but the image is directly related to the story.
I'm reminded of...: Alice Sebold, Elizabeth Berg
First line: I was born on a Tuesday morning.
Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Buy, if you do, as 25% of the book earnings are being donated to the American Stroke Association -- perhaps gift this to someone if you or someone in your family has been affected by stroke.
Why did I get this book?: The setup -- humorous, a little bittersweet, a bit sad -- intrigued me.
Review: This is the second novel I've read this year featuring someone in their late 20s/early 30s having a traumatic brain injury that changes their personality. It wasn't my intention to double up since it's not a plot device I'm particularly drawn to, but it was interesting for me to do a compare-and-contrast with the other novel (The Art of Forgetting). I preferred this novel over The Art of Forgetting as I found the characters a bit more likable, appealing, and relatable.
I had described The Art of Forgetting as a Hallmark movie; I think this book might be more ABC Family Night. There's a bit of mystery as Jonathan, the hero, learns that he was a very different man before his stroke, and he has to balance healing himself and making peace with his past. I found his family to be a bit aggravatingly tight-lipped and emotionally damaged in a way that made me want to put them all in to family therapy. There's a cute romantic entanglement and some quirky wrangling-a-mistake-into-a-victory twist that was a bit too neat and kind of fun all at once.
The novel has a bit of on an inspirational feel but isn't a 'clean' novel; it's a bit predictable but there's some satisfaction in the story unfolding in a way you can anticipate. I rather liked Jonathan -- he was funny and genuine -- and I liked Rebecca, the romantic interest.
I wasn't minding the vibe or narrative style until the author whipped out 'fag' as an insult to the straight male lead. The character that uttered it is supposed to be an earthy sort of man (he leers at all the women), but good (he clues the hero in to when the love interest needs some help) so it's not as if the author inserted this in as quickie shorthand to make the character unlikable. It felt unnecessary and affected my ability to really get in to the rest of the book. This sounds like a little thing, I suppose, but it was so unnecessary and so callous, it was like having someone slap me in the middle of a conversation for no reason; I spent the rest of the time skimming the book, waiting for the next slap to come. (There wasn't one, so the single instance of 'fag' felt all the more outrageous.)
In the end, the novel concluded the way I wanted it to, with the right mix of resolution and what's next? to satisfy.
*** *** ***
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