I recently finished reading Nick Hornby’s latest novel, A Long Way Down. It’s a dark comedy about four suicidal strangers who meet on the top of a building, where each had gone to jump. Their impulse to save each other forces them to realize their own self-preservation instinct. After walking down, the four bond into an unlikely band of friends.
‘If Camus had written a grown up version of The Breakfast Club, the result might have had more than a little in commmon with [A Long Way Down] … a brave and absorbing book. It’s a thrill to watch a writer as talented as Hornby take on the grimmest of subjects without flinching, and somehow make it funny and surprising at the same time’
Tom Perotta, Publishers Weekly
JJ, described as a “tall, cool, American, looks like a rock-star (was, in fact, a rock-star before his band split) – who’s weighed down with a heap of problems and pizza,” was the character who most struck me. At an adult developmental leap point in life, he’s trying to decide whether he can choose to leap forward, or if he ought to just leap off.
Early on he’s explaining his story, how he ended up on the roof, and references it all back to when his band, Big Yellow, split up:
When Big Yellow played live, it was like some kind of Pentecostal service; instead of applause and whistles and hoots, there’d be tears and teeth-grinding and speaking in tongues. We saved souls.
But we used to have these messages boards up on our Web site, and I’d read them every now and again, and I could tell that people felt the same way we did; and I looked at other people’s boards, too, and they didn’t have the same kind of fans. I mean, everyone has fans who love what they do, otherwise they wouldn’t be fans, right? But I could tell from reading the other boards that our guys walked out of our shows feeling something special. We could feel it and they could feel it. It’s just that there weren’t enough of them, I guess. Anyway.
As usual, Hornby has created four very flawed characters who nevertheless engage you, and to whom you relate (even if in varying degrees).
The story requires no suspension of disbelief, flows easily and entertainingly, and is well worth your time.
copyright 2007 Julie Pippert