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This Book Will save your life

By A.M Homes

Living alone can cause you to become accustomed to the isolation it creates. A.M. Homes’ very funny and engaging novel, This Book Will Save Your Life tells the story of one man’s realization of his own urban isolationism and his attempts to rejoin society.

Richard Novak spent his life accumulating a vast amount of wealth, which he continues to monitor through Internet day trading from his mansion in the Los Angeles hills. He is visited daily by a personal trainer, a nutritionist, and a maid who all keep him healthy and vigorous. He is completely oblivious in his Bose noise canceling headphones to the fact that he hasn’t left his house in months. After a health scare he starts noticing the people around him and performs a few random acts of kindness of his own: he buys his cleaner a hip operation, lends his Mercedes to the man behind the counter at Anhil’s doughnut shop, and air-lifts a horse from a sinkhole. When he finds an exhausted and unappreciated housewife weeping in an organic food store, he packs her off to a luxury hotel. She ends up walking out on her husband and children and living off of Richard instead. As Richard begins to reconnect with the world, he slowly finds himself becoming a Good Samaritan, either because he is paying more attention to the world around him than most people or because it is the man he always was but had suppressed for so long. In the end, Richard is also brought back in touch with his family, his aging parents, his brilliant brother, the beloved ex-wife whom he still desires, and finally, before the story’s breathtaking finale, with his estranged son Ben.

The pleasure of reading This Book Will Save Your Life derives from how subtly the story sneaks up on you. The adventures and situations in which Richard Novak finds himself are, at times, absurd but come across as quite ordinary in the context of Los Angeles. Novak’s attempts to begin to embrace the joys of life could come across as cheesy, but Homes manages to express Richard’s personality shift as a logical, natural progression rather than a caricature. Although it may not save your life, A.M. Homes’ This Book Will Save Your Life deserves a spot in your life.