Book Review: This Book Will Save Your Life by A.M. Homes

A wake-up call in the form of pain, excruciating, debilitating pain drove Los Angeles resident Richard Novak to dial 911 one night. Numerous tests turned up no conclusive results and the pain is written off as “an episode” leaving Richard to return home alone via taxi. Sitting in the back of the cab listening to the driver, he realizes he isn’t ready to go home; it’s been so long since he’s been anywhere and suddenly his empty house holds no appeal. A doughnut shop catches Richard’s eye and its there that he meets Anhil, an Indian immigrant with a passion for his product and a down to earth wisdom to share.

Richard begins to wonder when he became so disconnected from the world, he’s barely said three meaningful words to his parents, brother, son, ex-wife or housekeeper in six years. His affluence has allowed him a diet that is strictly controlled, all neatly laid out for him by his nutritionist, his personal trainer comes right to his door and according to Cecelia, his housekeeper for over a decade, it has been 24 days since he left the house for anything. Now fate has decided it is time for him to rejoin the human race and dumps on him with a vengeance.

First, there is the growing sinkhole in the back yard, then Richard meets some of his neighbors as he begins attempting to rescue a horse that has gotten stuck in the hole, he’s on first name basis with the 911 operator and has a cast of city employees monitoring his back yard. Then he gets hit by a car, assists “the crying woman” in the produce section of a grocery store and discovers not only is his house in danger of getting swept into the sink hole, his insurance company won’t cover any of the damages and that’s just for starters. The “crying woman’s” husband is looking for him, he’s got to move out of his carefully decorated house and he wrecked his car while rescuing a kidnapped woman from the trunk of another driver. Whether Richard wants it or not, life is coming at him hard and fast leaving him quite literally, adrift without a map.

Homes has clearly come into her own with this delightfully quirky take on midlife crisis and family that leaves a warm glow as she explores the depths of compassion, love and friendship. The lively cast of characters are funny, flawed and frequently floundering as they try to achieve a sense of balance. Smooth writing and near comedic farce make this a bright tale that ends with just the right touch of uncertainty. 

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