A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby
An aborted suicide is probably not the most solid basis from which to start a lasting friendship … but for bestselling author Nick Hornby, it’s certainly an interesting place to start quite the irreverent novel.
Four desperate souls somehow find themselves gathered on the roof of a London “tower block” on New Year’s Eve, each determined to take the leap. Martin, once a famous talk-show host, is fed up with trying to rebuild his life after surviving jail for getting caught sleeping with a 15-year-old girl. Maureen is an isolated, middle-aged single mother with a challenging teenager who never matured beyond a toddler’s abilities. Jess is the foul-mouthed privileged daughter of a dysfunctional family temporarily distraught with unrequited love. And JJ, the one American, is a would-be musician who’s lost his girlfriend and his band, and realizes delivering pizzas in a city not his own is not how he wants to spend the rest of his life.
Except their rash New Year’s Eve resolution, the quartet has nothing else in common. But they somehow end up saving each other from jumping that night … and many more nights to come. With mutual poking and prodding, each manages to shed enough of their debilitating degrees of self-absorption to still be standing on solid (enough) ground by book’s end …
Admittedly, Long Way is no About a Boy or High Fidelity, two of Hornby’s more successful novels. The ending (which I’ve sort of just given away without really meaning to) is of the head-scratching, careless shrugging variety.
That said, if you’re looking for some quick-moving light entertainment (in spite of its undeniably serious subject), skip the book (that’s a first coming from me!) and grab the audible version instead. In addition to the never-disappointing Simon Vance who glibly voices Martin just right, Scott Brick (who’s narrated hundreds of those mega-adventure thrillers by Clancy, DeMille, Cussler, etc.) poignantly captures the questioning JJ, while Kate Reading is surprisingly convincing as both maudlin Maureen and impossible Jess. Without a doubt, the robust cast definitely adds surprisingly heft and strength to the anemic pages …
Tidbit: HOLY MOLY! I just found out Kate Reading is the audio-name for Jennifer Mendenhall, one of my favorite DC-based actresses!!! Egads, no wonder she sounded so familiar!