This Book Will Save Your Life
by A.M. Homes
The cover of this book is a triumph of marketing over good sense. The title is, I guess, a parody and, along with the doughnuts (sorry, donuts), it makes the book look like yet another diet manual. All very smart, but it doesn’t do justice to what is a hugely enjoyable and amusing story about a man who has the misfortune to be very rich and living in one of the most affluent and beautiful places in the world.
Richard Novak has amassed a fortune by trading on the stock market and lives in a house on millionaire’s row in LA. But somewhere along the way he has shut down emotionally and withdrawn from the world, his only contact being through the internet and with the various people who service his house needs. It takes a physical crisis and a visit to A & E to start his journey back to being a fully-feeling human being.
Richard the recluse suddenly finds himself a local super-hero who saves a horse (hoisted out of a hole by a movie star with a helicopter), a woman kidnapped by a psycho and a man drowning at sea, amongst others. His ex-wife keeps turning on the television to see him at the centre of yet another drama. It is very funny and there are some telling off-camera moments, like the child’s birthday celebration in a restaurant where the child, given a knife to cut the cake, repeatedly stabs it while his parents look on, bewildered.
Through his random acts of generosity, Richard becomes involved with some great characters and goes some way towards redeeming his self-centred loveless years. He also, poignantly, begins to repair the pain he caused by abandoning his son, Ben.
So, ignore the cover and the really rather embarrassing endorsement by Mark Haddon (“Weird and warm and wise and really rather wonderful”), and read it. It won’t change your life but it’ll certainly give you some pleasurable hours as well as an insight into California life as the apotheosis of consumer culture.
Published by Granta, 380pp.
See the review in the Guardian.