Top positive review
Perfect first book of the year and decade
Reviewed in the United States on January 2, 2020
FirstReads can be hit or miss; let's cautiously crack this one open and see what it has to offer:
"They say old habits die hard, which is true, but I also think that new habits are born easily when you live on your own. Like talking to yourself. Ordering pantry items in alphabetical order. Storing balled-up socks in colour-coordinated rows in a drawer. Buying microwave meals for one when you should be cooking from scratch, because you really do love to cook. And fantasising – writing lists of things you’d like to do, imagining a life that isn’t yours, all from the comfort of your sofa."
I'm intruiged. Into the breach we go!
The first 10%? Slow, introspective - painfully so. I debated continuing, In fear the rest of the book would be the neat freak lead character caught in his own cycle of destructive thoughts.
Then, the turning point, the plot point that unlocked the rest of the story. While the rest of the novel is still introspective, more internal dialogue than discussions, it became more real, nuanced, and engaging. With all Oliver's talk of gourmet cooking while consuming microwave meals, and self medicating with wine and carbs, and disappearing into thoughts of what might have been, and so much more. He is us, for all the good and bad, self-pity, doubt, and false starts to a better self.
This is an ideal first book of the year. It encompasses a spectrum of emotions beautifully: grief, depression, hope, and the stoppered up feeling of trying so hard to not feel anything. The lead character is sympathetic - after the last page I hope he finds his happiness - and the secondary characters distinctive.