I loved the book jacket — gorgeous turquoise, purple and cayenne pepper red. What is not to love? But then you wade into the book.
It has a strange rhythm that has all to do with an American man bearing a rather unfortunate name, Bruno and a 38-year-old Irish woman called Addie with a cantankerous father named Hugo. To borrow a phrase loved by one of my colleagues — it didn't augur well for the book. The only redeeming factor is a dog called Lola.
Ermm … could I write 600 words about the dog, as a review, without the editor noticing? I doubted it would manage to slip under the radar. So I hunkered down and decided to continue reading. Suddenly, the book became rather interesting.
Is there an exact page I could pinpoint? No, but I think it is about the time Bruno lands in Ireland, in search of his roots, and Addie loses her house key in a pile of dog poop. I promise it is far better than it sounds.
The pace picks up and you are caught in the romance of a naive American man and a sceptical Irish woman.
A long, long time ago, when I, too, was young, Erich Segal's Love Story had made an impression. It was soft, much like peas, but also had humour in it, which made for a fun read. There wouldn't be many who have experienced the 1970s book and not smiled at some point. And somewhere along the way, you also connected to Jennifer and Oliver, their struggle to make it in the world.
This is How It Ends has a similar capacity to capture your imagination with the detail of romance. Set in the global economic collapse just after the Lehman Brothers downfall, it is still a world that is not yet fully aware of the looming recession, the unemployment and the fiscal austerity measures coming up. It is still a place where people think of the Wall Street collapse as a disaster that is affecting some other part of the globe, somewhere that can only be viewed on television news breaks.
But Bruno is in on the secret. He lost his job at Lehman Brothers, is 49 years old and his only hope for a future depends on Obama making it to the White House. He follows the US presidential campaign at an obsessive level. Before you feel too sorry for him, let me add — the former banker thinks Bruce Springsteen is a religion and feels the loss of a job helped set him free.
MacMahon writes: "As the world collapses around him, Bruno sits in Starbucks eating his Valencia Orange cake with a plastic fork. He's sipping his Americano and he's thinking to himself, how lucky was I to get thrown free!"
At that moment, Page 88, to be precise, I had to put down the book, because it was so true.
For many of us, unless something physically pushes us out of our comfort zone, we ain't budging. We might grumble and then mumble some more. But making that change — well, that is a decision for another rainy day.
The turns that Bruno's life takes are dramatic, perhaps because it is part of a fictional storyline. But, it doesn't fail to raise the question, what are the opportunities that each of us is missing out on because we are afraid to take that step into the dark? Is it a question of faith? Or responsibilities and regrets?
To borrow from Springsteen: "Grab your ticket and your suitcase, Thunder's rolling down the tracks, You don't know where you're goin', But you know you won't be back …"