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3.0 out of 5 stars
3.0 out of 5 stars
American Spirit: A Novel
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VINE VOICEon 13 April 2014
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I read quite a varied selection of books and was attracted to this novel because of the references made to the ‘dry sense of humour.’ Sadly it was more like ‘no sense of humour.’ The novel, as a whole, lacked cohesion and reflected the ramblings of a self-obsessed whiner. Not for me I’m afraid!
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 28 September 2013
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Matthew, a forty-something ad executive, has lost his job after 'The Incident' - his wife doesn't know or even care, so he spends his days drinking and taking prescription medication in the parking lot of a grocery conglomerate. Also, Matthew is pretty sure he is dying and starts living like he is. He goes native, dabbles in drug-dealing, pottery and meditation all the while chain-smoking the eponymous cigarettes and ruing the American dream. Will Matthew get it together? Do we even want him to?

Dan Kelly writes as a real straight-shooter, his similes are insightful and witty, peppering the pages with laugh-out-loud moments as we watch Matthew rattle around bankrupting himself. The constant neurotic thought-process the character has is something I am sure everyone will recognise in themselves and hence Matthew really is the everyman generational middle-child, with the self-destructive tendencies to boot. Whilst you root and care for Matthew by the end - his connections with people sometimes grate - it is never really explained how such a fractured character managed to hold it together before he was unleashed on the pages of the book. You might want him to pull himself together at points but often it is more fun watching him tear himself apart - a great dichotomy that holds your intrigue all the way through this 342 page book. There is frequent drug-use, drinking, swearing and some questionable jokes in this, so it may not be for everyone, but I found this a real page-turner. Live or die, I couldn't wait to find out what happens to Matthew and this level of character involvement usually only comes with literature of a higher-calibre.

Recommended for an excellent satire of American society that will keep you chuckling throughout.
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VINE VOICEon 5 December 2013
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
There are some vile bits in this book. If you don't like vile bits don't read this book or the rest of this review.

The book follows 45-year-old Matthew Harris who is "long, lanky, slightly underweight, now hung-over, semi-moneyed, tall, and medium slim, with no evident interest in shaving."

He is going through a nervous breakdown thanks to his marriage to "unfaithful, unwieldy, retired fashion model wife" falling apart, and also because he was fired from the job he held for eleven years. The book follows him through this time where he "is in the midst of an endless and rudderless journey on rising seas of anxiety and receding tides of currency."

(Vile bit) The beginning sees him basically living out of his car, spitting all over it, him going over the incident that made him lose his job where "suddenly taking a leak all over your office is a crime" plus he has a kidney stone which makes blood come out instead of the normal.

The book is written through Matthew's over-thinking, active and self-destructive mind. This makes him not a nice person. For example, in addition to the above vile things, he goes to a meditation class and thinks, "The instructor has been brought here today to teach me how to relax and not let fear govern my life. I have been brought here today to teach the instructor how to be tense and afraid again." And his depression makes him "ponder the very real and very urgent shadow of death that seems to come to mind when there's too much silence."

He refuses help. "This is what Matthew's head does every time help comes along... it looks for holes in the argument." But eventually he comes to realise that he can't run away from the pain forever and it is time to get his life in order, deal with his kidney stone etc. "Let's get rid of some of the crutches; let's ask for help when it is needed; learn to have a little faith that there's still time, no matter how much was wasted."

So overall not a book for me, as a happy-go-lucky person, but maybe for others.
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TOP 50 REVIEWERon 30 January 2014
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Meet Mathew, he is mid forty- something, his partner has left him, he has done something bad at work which has resulted in him having more leisure time than he ever thought he needed and he is drinking to fill the void of having anything meaningful to actually do.

Whilst maintaining a waffer thin veneer of normalcy by pretending to go to work; he actually is spending most of his time getting anesthetised in the drivers seat of his BMW. He soon realises that he needs to do 'something', even if it is to just meet someone and have a conversation. So begins his `progress' which will see him try out drug dealing, visit a friend who is hiding in a luxury camper home in Yellowstone Park and require emergency medical treatment for something his expired insurance would have had him covered for.

Yes Mathew is a mess but he is a lovable mess. He is fallible, he is considerate and in most aspects he is honest. He seems to get himself into situations that are always going to go wrong or end up being amusing. This is written with a confidence that carries you along with the story. The language and the pacing are just right, people are given equal time for either consideration or dismissal which ever is most deserved and it is all done with a dry wit that is as disarming as it is amusing.

I loved this book, it is quite hard to make a train wreck of a man be as likeable and even in some respects inspirational as Mathew comes across. His crooked Wall Street mate Tim is equally as much fun and could have had a lot more time. But then that is the only real criticism of this book and that is that it ends too soon, I could have dealt with a whole lot more and that is something that always makes a book an especially brilliant read; Dan Kennedy has , hopefully, a massive hit on his hands - absolutely recommended.
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on 8 September 2014
It took me a while to get into this book – mainly because my husband was going through a similar health scare and it was a little too close to home. I persevered though and was very glad that I had. This book is a well written, very witty tale about Matthew, a forty-something media executive who has hit crisis mode in every aspect of his life; his marriage has broken down, he’s screwed his job up and his health is suffering.

Matthew launches on a life-altering escapade that sees him dealing drugs, trying his hand at mug design, a stay in a national park with his friend and two crazy tag-ons. He finds romance in an unlikely place and then manages to screw that up too.

This is an absolute hoot of a read, there are plenty of laugh out loud moments – for me, the funniest part was when Matthew is staying in the log cabin and the neighbour is telling him about the bear encounters. Matthew’s thoughts on this are hilarious!

I actually did not think I was going to enjoy this book, given what was going on in my own life at the time, but I am so glad I continued with it because it brought much needed laughter to my life at a crazy time.

Very well written. Lots of laughs and even when Matthew is being a jerk you cannot help but feel for him. Very poignant too, as the book follows Matthew on his journey of self discovery right through to his operation in Bali. After my initial reluctance I absolutely loved this book and would highly recommend it to everyone. It really is a funny book and brilliant read!

***** 5 stars. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!!!
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VINE VOICEon 25 February 2014
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
As the title says this is a dark and at times depressing book that follows the antics of Matthew, a skinny and recently unemployed chap who is currently experiencing a nervous breakdown and unfortunately has a kidney stone to boot!
The writing is at times a little gross, and near the knuckle, but also humorous in a macabre kind of way. It is told in the voice of Matthew so of course the whole book is a bag of laughs!! (not)
As you can imagine the book can be quite expressing, although it is also filled with dry (and often dark) humour. He did actually pee in public on his desk at work!
If you're a fan of this kind of genre (sharp edged humour) then this is worth a look at, it's definitely more male oriented and my husband enjoyed it far more than me.
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VINE VOICEon 14 February 2014
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I liked the dry wit in this parody of the American Dream. The silly adventures are written with a heavy style that makes it hard going, but worth persevering with. I could identify with a lot of the mindset, which puts the wind up me. The humour is a lead balloon that somehow manages to fly. This story is dealing with a lot of serious issues, using jokes that suit a particular sense of wit. It is black humour, with a rather laboured style. I could empathise with Matthew and a lot of the absurd situations he got into. Who wouldn't want to pee over their work environment at times, especially the computers.
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VINE VOICEon 4 November 2013
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This book started off a bit weirdly and I wasn't sure I was going to get to the end, but I'm so glad I perservered. This is such a dark, dark book and although it's not what would pass for humour for most people, my warped mind found it to be laugh out loud funny at times, and despite the craziness of the situation, I also found it to be pretty realistic - for a total screw up! Totally enjoyed this, despite the sometimes rambling nature of the prose.
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on 18 July 2013
The worst book I have tried to read. If this passes for literature I shudder to think. To me it was someone's rambling thoughts with no cohesion and pointless.
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on 9 July 2013
An interesting story, relevant in this age of high unemployment, but by no means an easy read. A bit self indulgent
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