I’ve just read one of those books.
I should have been reading the Booker Prize winner, but I wasn’t in the mood for it, so I picked up a less vast looking tome called ‘this book will save your life’. I’d describe the main character as experiencing a reverse mid-life crisis. Glancing at a review, I find out that it’s supposed to be a book about kindness.
I didn’t like it, much.
Let’s skip over what that says about me, and look at why I found the book a bit… meh.
The main character
We spend an awful lot of time with him. He’s undergoing some kind of transformation, and we’re supposed to care. The reader doesn’t get any time to know what he’s like before he starts changing. Hints are dropped throughout the book about his previous life, but it just makes it worse.
I have no sympathy for him as a character. There seems to be no motivation behind how he lived his life before the transformation. It feels a lot like reading a random series of events – the connection between them doesn’t feel strong enough.
Why does he do what he does? I think we’re supposed to believe that this randomly rich guy – who can buy anyone and everyone anything they want – starts making a complete life change after one conversation with a donut shop owner. I’m just not sure.
I get the impression that he’s forgotten who he really is, and so tends to act on instinct when he performs his random acts of kindness, but it means he’s always reacting to things, rather than making something happen for himself.
It feels a bit like the end of A Christmas Carol. Imagine reading about a tightfisted rich man who wakes up on Christmas day and randomly decides to give everyone gifts. Without his history, people don’t care about his redemption.
Gets interesting – ends
The last 100 pages were the best of the book. It became less about him doing random things for strangers and more about his son, and his past. It became less about the donuts. Now, I can see that a lot of the random stuff had to happen before he could get to that point, but it’s annoying to find all the good stuff crammed at the end.
After spending pages talking to us about how to make donuts, and focusing on land slippage, the book ends with no resolution whatsoever and the main character in peril.
Cliffhanger endings are great for the end of a chapter or the end of a book if it’s in a series (even then I like there to be some kind of resolution) but it doesn’t feel right for a stand-alone book. The reader deserves closure.
What I do find interesting, is that a book which I needed to force myself to read for the first few hundred pages, has left me infuriated that I don’t know how the story really ends.
What can I take from this book?
- I prefer proactive characters
- Action needs to have motivation
- Allow the reader to care about what happens to the characters
- Too many metaphors suck
- Don’t screw the reader out of a satisfying end to the story