I stumbled upon this book in the overdrive app and thought the cover looked quite appealing and enigmatic. I’m glad I read it, because it was a nice engaging read, and it was very short so it served as an excellent buffer prior to me starting my current arduous journey through Charlie Kaufman’s brain in Antkind. I will warn you, this review verges slightly into the realm of the spoiler, though I do refrain from giving away anything in regard to the conclusion. But if you’re one of those readers who detests for anyone to give ANYTHING away about where the plot leads at any point, proceed with caution.
Daniel is a pretty normal guy living in the college town of Athens, Georgia. He has a quirky best friend, Travis, and they dress up and enjoy tailgating at the various close to religious experiences that are Georgia Bulldog football games. He has a steady job being told off by angry fliers at a small regional airline on Twitter. Oddly, he even enjoys this to be rather enjoyable. Oh, and he has a debilitating neurological condition that has progressively gotten worse since infancy and has left him without the ability to speak or move. He mostly stays in his home in his wheelchair, visited occasionally by the afore-mentioned best friend and a kindly caretaker named Marjani. Though thanks to that awesome wheelchair, he can pretty much go anywhere he wants and lives a life of independence despite his obstacles. He’s ok, really. If you think otherwise, that’s your problem.
Daniel’s life is turned upside down one fateful day when he witnesses the kidnapping of a college student on the street in front of his house. After posting to a reddit thread about what he saw, he receives a communication from the kidnapper. Is it really from him or is it from some lonely man with too much time on his hands and a thirst for attention? Daniel’s journey to discovering the truth could lead him to a danger he never anticipated, and it will change his life forever.
What a fascinating and interesting concept. This book presents a very refreshing and enlightening look at a severe disability such as SMA (Spinal muscular atrophy). Daniel is an inspiring narrative voice, and he really gave me a lot to think about. As a moderately independent young man with SMA, he recognizes he is a bit of an anomaly, but he wouldn’t have it any other way. Despite it all, he still considers himself to live a good and blessed life, and he realizes he still has a lot to offer the world. You may be thinking this plot sounds an awful lot like Rear Window. In a way, it does have a comparison, but it’s fairly mild in the long run. And Jimmy Stewart is a lot more mobile than our protagonist, Daniel. As far as story structure goes, they are two very different works.
Character was the strongest part of this novel. Daniel, Marjani, and Travis were all fabulously drawn and possessed very distinctive traits that greatly enhanced their likability. The novel is very humorous, including the dialogue, and the characters had fabulous chemistry together. I especially enjoyed the relationship between Marjani and Daniel. While Daniel, in his stream of consciousness style, alludes to the idea that he believes Marjani sees him as just another job and that upon his death she will move to the next nearly dead job, we see as the story unfolds the depth of her love for Daniel. It’s a beautiful and touching testament to the power of the human bond. This novel is very rich in the feels, especially toward the end. This is a coming of age story, of sorts. But it’s a late life one. It’s Daniel’s coming to terms with his important place in the world. It’s his recognition that all of us, no matter our size, strength or abilities, each hold an equal sized square in the woven tapestry of life, and we can all make a difference in our own way.
I do feel there were aspects of this plot that were severely lacking. While I enjoyed the more personal aspects of the book, the mystery left me a bit frustrated. Firstly, it took Daniel forever to figure out what to do. Though he was sure he saw Ai Chin, the victim of the kidnapping, get into a car with a man, he waits for so long before actually doing something about it. He can actually communicate, but he’s not in any way forceful enough in the beginning despite the fact that he can describe both the car and the man. This left me incredibly frustrated. Then what does he do? He makes a reddit post!! I realize this is a plot device that allowed the potential kidnapper to contact him, thereby adding a new layer of mystery, but in real life this seems like such a ridiculously stupid thing to do!
The frustration does not end there. When he does, days later, finally get the police to take notice of his claims, they just brush off his story as not important. As a matter of fact, they don’t really look into it at all. Though they know the identity of the man he suspects is behind it, they don’t even check to see what kind of car he drives to see if it matches the one Daniel saw. Narratively speaking, this is what causes Daniel to be on his own for the purposes of suspense for our story, so I get it. It still left me incredibly frustrated. The result of all of this is that the suspense felt a bit forced and then the plot seemed to drag. It picks up majorly toward the end and then we speed ahead toward a very dramatic conclusion, so that’s a plus.
Overall, this was a very enjoyable read. It was very short, so even though I thought it dragged in places, it didn’t take long to get through the arduous parts and then the story redeemed itself. And the author obviously knows a lot about SMA, and he acknowledges he knows someone with a child who was born with the disease, and this translates well to the text. I would recommend this to someone looking for a light, humorous read that leaves you feeling pretty good about life as a whole.
Published May 11, 2021 by Harper Audio. ISBN 0063073099. Runtime 7 hrs, 28 mins.