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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.
The journey from isolation to connection in a semiapocalyptic Los Angeles is the subject of this blithely redemptive new novel by Homes (Things You Should Know). Richard Novak is a day-trader wealthy enough to employ a housecleaner, nutritionist, decorator and personal trainer, but after he's taken to the hospital with a panic attack he realizes he has no one to call. Determined to change his life, but also stalked by strange circumstances (e.g., a sinkhole opens in his lawn), Richard makes extravagant gestures of goodwill toward various acquaintances, relatives and strangers. By the time his misguided altruistic adventures have become fodder for late-night TV jokes, Ben, the son he abandoned years ago in a divorce, arrives in town. Richard's tenuous and fraught reconnection with Ben is at the heart of his reclamation, but when it is complete the city of L.A. itself collapses, la Mike Davis's City of Quartz. Homes's stale cultural critique feels deliberate. She gradually undoes the ordered precision of Richard's Bobo paradise, and literally leaves him floating serenely on his kitchen tabletop in an "it's all good" sort of daze. But the cool distance she keeps from Richard's struggle, and the banal terms in which she articulates it, leave one with a much darker sense of the possibilities for being saved.