This Book Will Save Your Life

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Overview

Since her debut in 1989, A. M. Homes has been among the boldest and most original voices of her generation, acclaimed for the psychological accuracy and unnerving emotional intensity of her storytelling. Her ability to explore how extraordinary the ordinary can be is at the heart of her touching and funny new novel, her first in six years. This Book Will Save Your Life is a vivid, uplifting, and revealing story about compassion, transformation, and what can happen if you are willing to lose yourself and open up ...

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This Book Will Save Your Life

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Overview

Since her debut in 1989, A. M. Homes has been among the boldest and most original voices of her generation, acclaimed for the psychological accuracy and unnerving emotional intensity of her storytelling. Her ability to explore how extraordinary the ordinary can be is at the heart of her touching and funny new novel, her first in six years. This Book Will Save Your Life is a vivid, uplifting, and revealing story about compassion, transformation, and what can happen if you are willing to lose yourself and open up to the world around you.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Affluent day-trader Richard Novak has populated his life with housecleaners, nutritionists, decorators, and personal trainers, but none of these appointed specialists can fill the abyss at the center of his existence. After a unnerving panic attack and a property disaster, he embarks on an emergency campaign to find his niche in the universe. As this improvised crusade is unfolding, the city of Los Angeles itself joins in the upheaval, raising the stakes and the fun.
Publishers Weekly
As Richard Novak is perfecting a life of isolation, a series of bizarre and surreal events force him to reassess his position and reconnect with the world around him. Upon emerging, he is bombarded with a cast of eccentric characters, including an unappreciated soccer mom, a reclusive writer and a jovial doughnut-shop owner. Throughout this darkly humorous audio, Scott Brick supplies excellent tone and subtlety, easily seducing his audience with the opening scene between Novak and a 911 operator. The contrast between the two highlights Brick's ability and range. While his vocal depictions of characters match up and remain consistent, Brick almost falters with the Novak. For the most part, Brick keeps Novak steady but occasionally delivers a speaking voice that doesn't fit the profile range delivered previously. While his uniformity on Novak wavers, his projection of the anxiety and agitation that plague Novak's life cannot be understated. This book probably won't save your life, but it's likely to make you laugh and ponder your own connection with the world. Simultaneous release with the Viking hardcover (Reviews, Jan. 23). (May) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Richard Novak's day-trading fortune has given him the good life in the hills above 21st-century Los Angeles, but a heart-attack scare exposes his isolation, and a rapidly expanding sinkhole in his front yard forces him to move to a Malibu rental. These crises throw Richard into the paths of such diverse characters as a donut shop owner, a runaway housewife, and a reclusive, iconic author. His eventual return to humanity culminates in a confrontational and emotional visit with teenage son Ben, and a feral chihuahua attack on his ex-wife brings them all to a greater understanding and acceptance of one another. Harrison Ford and ex-president Gerald Ford appear in one of the book's weaker scenes that stops just shy of contrived silliness, but, overall, this is an engaging and timely tale told with a balanced mix of dark humor and sympathy for individuals enduring the foibles of everyday living. Devoted fans of Homes (Music for Torching) might miss her edgier and more provocative works, and new readers may be shaken by the comically apocalyptic ending of Richard's midlife crisis. Nevertheless, this is recommended for all fiction collections. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 12/05.]-Jenn B. Stidham, Houston Community Coll.-Northeast, TX Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The hero of Homes's latest novel (after Music for Torching, 1999)-a work of guarded but very real optimism and, ultimately, of redemption-is Richard Novak, a California-style Scrooge. Richard is a friendless, divorced Los Angeles investor who has so single-mindedly worked to create extravagant wealth that he has become estranged from mankind. For Richard, the wake-up call is not a minatory ghost but a pain that bends him double and sends him to the ER, where he realizes there is no one he can call who would really care. The novel charts Richard's gradual reawakening to the needs of others and the pleasure of their company. With the innocence of a newborn, he befriends the Middle Eastern owner of a donut shop; a woman weeping in the produce aisle of a supermarket (whom he treats to a week of spa treatments); and his next-door neighbor. Having warmed up to strangers, Richard struggles to re-establish contact first with his younger brother, a scientist living in Boston, and then with his sharp-tongued ex-wife and his teenaged son. Narratives about the very wealthy often have a glow of limitless possibility that verges on enchantment, and here, when Richard's house is menaced by an encroaching sinkhole, he lifts his de Kooning off the wall and rents an all-white house in Malibu. Not only are the cast-iron frying pans white-enameled, the sexual harness mounted in the guestroom ceiling is all white, too. That close to L.A., such loony details are plausible enough, but Homes occasionally skitters into realms so odd that the hypnotic spell of her narrative is broken. Could anyone believe that firefighters, battling the blaze that destroys the Malibu rental, had seen "the infamous mystery cat-alarge animal some believe maybe be the sole surviving saber-toothed cat" among the flames? Deeper satisfaction derives from her characters' sudden insights, as when Richard imagines that if he calls out, his brother will come to comfort him. There is a whole lifetime of change in that simple moment of understanding that indicates how far Richard has traveled toward redemption. An extremely likable book.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780670034932
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 4/20/2006
  • Pages: 384
  • Product dimensions: 6.24 (w) x 9.26 (h) x 1.34 (d)

Meet the Author

A. M. Homes
A. M. Homes is the award-winning author of Music for Torching, The End of Alice, and The Safety of Objects, among others. She is also a writer and executive producer for the hit cable TV show The L Word.

Biography

The book Homes is perhaps best known for is her novel The End of Alice -- chiefly because it caused such a stir.

The narrator, a middle-aged sex offender in prison for murdering a little girl, develops a correspondence with a college girl who's obsessed with a 12-year-old boy. The result was a compendium of behavior -- real and imagined -- that was largely so violent, sickening or "show-offy dirty," as the New York Times put it, that its prose and events were excerpt-resistant and left mainly to the brave and curious. The book spurred a flurry of protests and attempted bans.

In 1999, Homes followed up The End of Alice with Music for Torching, a novel of kink and circumstance in the suburbs of New York in which an unhappy couple sets fire to their own house, then moves in with neighbors whose seemingly perfect marriage reveals its own subterranean faults. A high school hostage situation that is part of the book's coda had coincidental parallels to the Columbine tragedy that same year. The New York Times had a typical response: "The fact is, I was at times appalled by the book, annoyed by it, angered by it. Its ending struck me as cynical and manipulative. But even so, I found myself rapt from beginning to end, fascinated by Homes's single-minded talent for provocation."

For many readers, summaries like this are a signal to run, run, run in the other direction. But first, consider that Homes's books are not just big Pandora's boxes -- they can be a funny Pandora's boxes. In the story "Real Doll," for example, collected in 1990's The Safety of Objects, a boy's -- er, relationship -- with a Barbie doll bears some humorous gibes ("I [Barbie] if she wanted something to drink. ‘Diet Coke,' she said. And I wondered why I'd asked.").

Homes's earlier work is also almost sweet by comparison. Her well-received debut novel Jack chronicled the struggles of a 15-year-old to cope with his parents' divorce and the revelation that his dad is gay; In a Country of Mothers deals with a middle-aged counselor's deepening relationship with her 19-year-old female client. Both books contain poignant explorations of identity.

In her second story collection Things You Should Know, Homes continued to develop her singular, eclectic voice. A biracial marriage suffers a rift created by an addled, deteriorating mother-in-law in "Chinese Lessons"; Nancy Reagan's current life is devilishly imagined in "The Former First Lady and the Football Hero"; a woman endeavors to inseminate herself with the leftovers from beach trysts she espies in "Georgica." As with Homes's previous works, the collection is a testament to the author's talents for portraying the depths of human pain and depravity with humor and unabashed honesty.

Good To Know

Homes is an adjunct assistant professor of creative writing at Columbia University.

Perhaps tired of the scrutiny that arose from The End of Alice, Homes often comes across as a difficult interview subject, flatly refusing to indulge (or even validate) the natural curiosity about any personal connection to her work. She dressed down an interviewer in The Barcelona Review in 1997 thusly: "I have no experience with ‘recovery.' Again, you're applying your own notions about abuse, recovery, personal narrative, to the work. These are not areas I work from, they are not relevant. ...You seem to have a recurring question or concern about how I assimilate what goes on in my stories into everyday life. I am a fiction writer, I work from my imagination, in response to things going on in the culture."

The Safety of Objects was adapted for film by director Rose Troche in 2001, with stars including Glenn Close and Dermot Mulroney.

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    1. Hometown:
      New York, New York
    1. Date of Birth:
      December 18, 1961
    2. Place of Birth:
      Washington, D.C.
    1. Education:
      B.A., Sarah Lawrence College, 1985; M.F.A., University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 19 )
Rating Distribution

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(6)

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Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 19 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 15, 2007

    Fascinating

    I picked up this as an unabridged audiobook. I like to listen as I drive, this book was so great I broke a cardinal rule and finished it at home. I have not read any other of the authors titles yet but you can be assured I will.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 2, 2006

    Great Read!

    I am constantly reading only 1/4 of a book & losing interest. Within 10 pages you are interested in Richard & what is happening to him. I felt I got to know Richard & the other characters without long paragraphs of descriptions. One of the first books to capture my interest in some time. A.M. Homes is a gifted writer and I plan on checking out all of her other books!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 6, 2009

    Funny moments, familiar theme

    It may be because the story takes place in LA, but I kept getting the feeling that I saw this movie before. Mid-life crisis man has a moment that detours him off his path and because he wasn't too happy with the other path, he lets it take him where ever it will. Whacky characters and incidents ensue, leading to touching moment with estranged son, random sex and drug use, some after-school special charity and betterment of others who stumble into his path, tied up with a classic one-liner that sums up the meaning of his existence. Luckily for the reader, some of the scenes are really funny, so once you realize the car is on rails, you don't mind the ride. Not much about donuts though and I don't think they were what saved his life, but that's just me....

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 10, 2008

    Stays With You

    AM Homes has not written a novel ¿ rather she has served up a refreshing colonic of pure Lala Land. Following Richard Novak's hilarious misadventures in the land of creative geniuses, larger than life stars, health gurus, exercise fanatics and people with too much time and money makes for a fun, easy read that is neither shallow or easily forgettable. The characters for all their extremities are people we feel we know or have met. The theme¿ a person trying to recover from heartbreak is poignant and moving. Though completely implausible at times, you may find yourself referring back to parts of this book long after its been covered with dust or handed off to a friend.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 28, 2007

    Its not what you think

    I read this book in a relatively short period of time. It was well written, and flowed easily...The characters were interesting, and funny without being too silly. I really liked seeing the growth in the main character. the way he began reaching out and stretching his comfort zone. Recommend this highly.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 30, 2006

    Good book

    I enjoyed learning about the main character - of seeing what would happen to him day to day -- but at the end I am left asking myself what the point of the book was - maybe it's just me? Anyway, it's a good read!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 28, 2012

    Loved ut Loved it

    Hate writing reviews

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  • Posted April 15, 2010

    Disappointing

    Not particularly involving. I kept waiting for something of significance to happen, given the "important" sounding title. Over-all, it was dull, and unconvincing. I was disappointed in this book. Admittedly, I did get the audio book, thinking that it was going to be filled with all kinds of surviving-disaster advice (it was the mood I was in!) but found instead found it to be rather uninvolving. The initial scenes were interesting enough, but I felt the book went down-hill from that point. The books was suppose to be "darkly funny and emotionally intense" but fell flat for me. This book would do in a pinch if you've already read the back of the cereal box and there were no old back issues of Newsweek lying around, and you weren't awake enough to do much else.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted September 10, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Offbeat but relevant

    Today we seem to wear blinders when passing each other on the street or standing next to one another at the checkout line. This book really points out how we have become so secluded and wrapped up in only our own little worlds. It shows how life can become so routine and monotonous. You can easily distance yourself from those who should be your closest loved ones. This book demonstrates how to turn one's life around, look around, and begin interacting with all those you come in contact with. We can learn so much from each other, and we can learn to live again by reaching out to others, close or distant. This book will save your life by teaching you to get out of your cubicle and embrace life!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 20, 2009

    Forget the title. Forget the cover. This is a 21st. century version of 'Cather in the Rye for adults.

    Forget the cover. Forget the title. Buy the book. Read it. It is 'Catcher in the Rye,' twentieth century style for adults. Especially those who see straight through southern
    California.

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    Posted June 3, 2011

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    Posted December 27, 2009

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    Posted July 26, 2009

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 15, 2009

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    Posted April 8, 2009

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    Posted May 28, 2011

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    Posted February 21, 2014

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    Posted March 4, 2009

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    Posted February 1, 2011

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    Posted August 1, 2009

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