Thursday, June 21, 2018

Fiction Review: The Reason You're Alive

Brilliant novelist Matthew Quick has done it again with his latest novel, The Reason You're Alive: given readers a glimpse into the kind of character we rarely hear from and addressed a multitude of important issues along the way, with insight, emotion, and humor. In Silver Linings Playbook, it was a character with bipolar disorder; Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock took us into the mind of a troubled teen planning a horrific crime and then his own suicide; and The Good Luck of Right Now was told from the perspective of an adult probably on the autism spectrum learning to live on his own for the first time. In The Reason You're Alive, we meet David Granger, a Vietnam veteran still suffering from PTSD, who will make you question every assumption you've ever made about other people.

As the novel opens, David is just leaving the hospital after brain surgery, where doctors removed a large tumor discovered after a car accident. Filled with suspicion and paranoia, David is convinced the tumor came from his exposure to Agent Orange while in Vietnam and that even his recent surgery is part of a government conspiracy. While coming out of anesthesia, David keeps repeating the name of a Native American man he served with, a man he feels he wronged and whom he thinks is still seeking revenge decades later. David's beloved wife died years ago, and he struggles to maintain a relationship with his adult son, Hank, with whom he feels he has nothing in common, though he adores his seven year-old granddaughter, Ella. Throughout the story, as David moves in with his son while he's recovering, both David and Hank learn things about each other that keep surprising them both. David defies categorization, for instance carrying a concealed weapon while indulging in a tea party with Ella. Along the way, David seeks the help of an old friend to find the Native American and right old wrongs.

David is a narrator unlike any you have ever met in fiction. At first, he comes across as brash, outspoken, and offensive, but throughout the story, David bashes every stereotype you can think of - about conservatives, patriots, veterans, and more - bit by bit as the reader (and Hank) gets to know him better. Despite his politically incorrect tell-it-like-it-is attitude, David actually has a surprisingly diverse group of friends, and the more you get to know him, the more complex and nuanced he becomes. As always with Quick's novels, he deals with important issues in an emotionally powerful way, including everything from suicide to depression to racism, all the while making you laugh out loud - often.

I didn't think I'd be interested in the subject matter of this novel, but I listened to it because I have loved Quick's other novels so much, and it didn't disappoint. Hearing the story told in David's gruff, cigarette-roughened voice made the novel come alive even more for me, and by the end of the story, like Hank, I had learned to love David and appreciate his many layers. This is a novel that everyone in America (probably the world) should read right now because we could all learn David's lesson about not making assumptions about other people and taking the time to get to know those who are different from you. Plus, it's a highly entertaining, moving, hilarious story.

240 pages, Harper

Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher in return for an honest review. My review is my own opinion and is not influenced by my relationship with the publisher or author.

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Click here to hear a sample of David's shocking, eye-opening narration from the start of the novel....but don't get scared off by David's offensive, profanity-laced approach to life - I guarantee you will learn to like, respect, and appreciate him!

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1 comment:

  1. This sounds really good, but as you say, not one I'd naturally choose to read.