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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A touch-stone for the self-help generation, 16 Jun. 2007
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This review is from: This Book Will Save Your Life (Paperback)
Undoubtedly, there's always going to be a certain stigma attached to books recommended by those giants of literary criticism, 'Richard & Judy'. However, as the old saying goes, don't judge a book by its cover-sticker, and those willing to look past it will find much to enjoy in A.M. Homes' latest novel.

Written as a third person, present tense narrative - sans chapter headings - newcomers to the author may be surprised to discover that Homes is a woman, as the book's central character, Richard Novak, is a middle-aged man; he is also a millionaire, an estranged father and a social recluse. Following a seemingly unprovoked attack of physical pain, Novak decides to start making one or two changes in his life and become "a better person". So far, so predictably post-modern, you might think. But as the story unfolds, it is impossible not to be drawn in by Richard's quest as he - in his own words - starts doing for other people what he can't do for himself. Homes succeeds in presenting Novak both as a rather sorry, lonely figure and a genuinely likeable guy. Furthermore, the events that befall Novak are so bizarre, so unexpected - and yet, by all accounts, entirely in keeping with the Los Angeles backdrop of the book's setting - that you can't help but want to read on and find out how he copes.

This Book Will Save Your Life is a swift read, it's funny (the episode in which his drunken teenage son runs out into the night leaving Novak to wonder whether he'll be eaten by a media-fabricated sabre-toothed tiger was, for me, one of a few laugh-out-loud moments) and there's enough emotional intensity here to soften the hearts of even the most hardened cynics. Whether this book will actually save your life is doubtful, however. Much of what Novak does to help himself and those around him requires money - a lot of money - but as this was the source of Novak's emotional 'freeze' it's more of a literary device used by the author to help deliver her message than an answer to how to save the world.

Ultimately, then, TBWSYL offers something different to both preachy self-help literature (both fictional and factual) and humourless, cynical alternatives, and for this reason it's a worthy addition to any reader's collection.

Matt Pucci
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