Sunday, July 31

40 by Travis Thrasher

What would you do if knew the date on which you would die?  Would you be happy with how you lived your life, or would it be filled with regrets?  Would you tell other people, or would you keep it to yourself?

This is the situation facing Tyler after his guardian angel, Matthew, says that Tyler will die on his 40th birthday—less than a year away.  A music producer who worked on one of the biggest hit albums in the last several years, Tyler has been on a bit of decline.  His star musician never shows up to any meetings, and there seems to be trouble getting a studio to sign on to a popular Christian singer looking to crossover into a more secular market.

The blurb on the back claims that 40 is “unpredictable” and “moving.”  It definitely got the unpredictable part right.  There were times that I had no idea where the story was going – and I don’t mean that in a good way.  Tyler seems to have many dreams (visions?) of alternate versions of his life, and there are several chapters which are mostly his thoughts and they often seem completely out of left field.  It seems like Thrasher is trying to use the odd structure so that readers will relate more with Tyler, who is confused about the whole situation.  Occasionally these disjointed sections come after nights of heavy drinking and seem to be trying to underscore Tyler’s drunken thoughts and interpretations of events.  Most of the time I didn’t like how it was done, and I tended to felt confused to the point where I didn’t even understand what was going on/supposed to be going on.  Some novels have used this effectively, including Faulkner’s classic The Sound and the Fury, however Thrasher’s attempts didn’t work for me.  As a result of not being able to always identify what was going on, I had a hard time finding the story to be moving.

That said, I felt the book had a fairly strong ending and one that I (mostly) got.  There were some elements which were surprising, but they worked for me and helped make up for some of the confusion I felt earlier.  The novel also started out fairly well, though perhaps a bit slowly and repetitive.

Travis is a strong writer.  Despite the repetitiveness of the first few chapters, I was drawn in by his writing style and by the way he created his characters.  Though ultimately the structure of the story caused me to not appreciate the story, I enjoyed the writing.  If I were to have the chance I would definitely give another one of Thrasher’s books a try and see if I like the story better (this was the first book of his I’ve read).

3/5 Stars

I received this book free from Faith Words, a division of Hachette Book Group, Inc.  I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255

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