Thursday, March 3, 2011

Review: Next by James Hynes

Next: A NovelTitle: Next

Author: James Hynes

Pages: 308

Source: Twitter win from Little Brown

Rating: 9/10

Summary (From book flap):

Descending on a plane into Austin, Texas, Kevin Quinn is worried about his stifling job, the younger girlfriend he's lucky to have by can't commit to, his rapidly encroaching late middle age, and the terrorist attacks in Europe that rocked the world just days ago. But as the tarmac looms closer, he's really thinking about only one thing: the beautiful young woman in the seat next to him.

Though he should be focused on the job interview that's brought him to Texas in the first place, Kevin can't quite let his luminous seatmate go. He impulsively takes off after her through the city streets in a quixotic and nostalgic journey that evokes scenes from his past: his dodgy love life, recollected in hilariously mortifying detail; the tragicomedy of his youthful idealism; the dysfunctional family he has only ever wanted to escape.

It's a day both common in its anxieties and singular for the fresh possibilities the girl and the interview represent. Then, on the fifty-second floor of an Austin office tower, as he takes the first steps toward what he hopes might be a late-in-life second chance, Kevin is suddenly confronted with a shocking reality about himself, and the age we live in. Perhaps, in the nick of time, he will understand just what happens next.

My Two Cents:

This is one of those books that I went into with interest, but also trepidation. I was worried Kevin would turn into another Rabbit Angstrom, and I didn't know if I could take that. I think it's the fact that the protagonist is so far from my own experience (Male, middle-aged, etc.). But, I was pleasantly surprised.

Hynes' writing had me laughing from the get-go. Kevin's internal monologue as he's sitting on the plane, ruminating about nearly everything under the sun, including the "other Kevin" who perpetrated a terrorist attack in Europe, is solid. It's focused but still has that stream-of-consciousness feel to it, but it's easy enough to follow that you don't feel as if you're reading Joyce or Woolf.

Kevin is just pathetic enough to be a sympathetic character -- He can't find it in himself to settle down with one woman, he hates his current job, he dwells on his past -- but he isn't pathetic enough to be a completely boring character. He's actually really interesting to watch as he moves through an unusual city, wondering why he's doing what he's doing but still continuing on his journey anyway. I liked him more and more as the book progressed, and especially identified with his sense of humor.

While this isn't a big action-packed book, or really a book about a person changing drastically (Until the very end, during a crucial moment), it's still a really interesting read that I'd recommend to anyone who's a fan of modern fiction. I finished it in just a couple days' time because I kept wanting to know what happened.


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