'This book will save your life' by A.M. Homes. I think maybe the doughnuts on the front cover were the best bit of this book. I didn't dislike it, in fact it is really well written, engaging and entertaining, it's just that it's exactly the same book as her other one. I read 'May we be forgiven' only a couple of months ago and loved it. I launched into this one expecting to be equally enthralled, only to find that it is basically the same story, only with not such a strong premise for the events.
Here we have another self-absorbed bloke, Richard, who finds himself caught up in a series of bizarre events that force him to reconnect with other human beings. In this story a terrible pain in his chest and then a sinkhole appearing beside his house oblige Richard to step outside his comfort zone. Anhil at the doughnut shop feeds him sugar and he magically realises how closed off his life has become. The anonymous neighbours, his cleaner, trainer and nutritionist all become real people for him where once they were just objects that played a part in the self-sufficient little bubble he has built around himself. Like Harold he befriends a random 'crying woman' and fixes her life. Like Harold he learns how to bond with young people and the elderly. Like Harold he takes on random animal responsibilities. But unlike Harold he phones someone else whenever he wants something organising. His financial security (his wealth coming from dealing shares) means he can just throw money at any problem (again in exactly that same way Harold did) so there is no actual crisis for him to deal with, no weighing up of options or struggling ... if he wants to do something he just puts it on the credit card. He learns how to take an interest in other people's lives, but more in a 'oh look it's more satisfying for me to spend money on other people than I ever imagined it would be' kind of way. The story has the same message of life being better if you have more people in it. I didn't like him any more at the end than I did at the beginning; unlike Harold, who I felt underwent a real transformation, Richard remains the same dickhead at the end that he was at the beginning.
I have this one quote that really struck me, worryingly I identify with rather too closely; this is Cynthia, the 'crying woman' telling Richard about why she has walked out on her family:
"'I started wishing I was dead. Yesterday I spent five hours in the car, picking them up, dropping them off, driving in circles, making sure I had their water, snacks, their sports equipment, circling home to wash their clothes, to walk the dog. I got in at six, cooked dinner, and they said, 'We don't like meatloaf,' and I said, 'It's chicken,' and they said 'We don't like chicken.' It's like I'm their servant. No one says thank you or puts their dishes in the dishwasher or lifts a finger.'
'And why don't you say anything?'
'I'm afraid. If I say something, I won't just say something - I'll explode. I'll pick up my son's baseball bat, which is under the kitchen table, where he left it, and I'll start smashing them in the head, I'll club them to death. I don't trust myself.'" (p.118)
So, sorry. It's not a bad book at all, just repetitive.