I’ve been aware of Nick Hornby for awhile. I just never got around to reading him. About a year ago, in my favorite local used book store, I picked up two of his books: High Fidelity and A Long way Down. I tend to favor Umberto Eco’s thoughts on the ‘Antilibrary’, that is, the idea that the most important feature of one’s personal library are the unread books. For they, they are the source of unending possibility and potentiality. Lurking with their pages is the presence of ‘perhaps‘.
Needless to say both books sat on a shelf untouched until a few weeks ago. I was still coming down off the high of finishing Matt Haig‘s book, How to Stop Time (which I highly recommend), and I wanted something similar in tone and style. I thought Hornby might fit the bill. I wasn’t disappointed.
What you have here is a quirky tale written in shifting perspectives, points of view, and the individual voices of the four very different main characters. An unlikely quartet of people each depressed, despairing, and on the verge of suicide, band together to try find reasons to go or to at least delay their demises.
They have each, through their own varying traumas and circumstances, found out the hard way that “there are other ways of dying, without killing yourself” It happens when “You…let [the most important] parts of yourself die.” And yet, as Hornby writes “Sometimes it’s moments like that, real complicated moments, absorbing moments that make you realize that even hard times have things in them that make you feel alive.”
In the end what you find in A Long Way Down is not a shiny series of self-help tinged platitudes or unrealistically happy endings. But broken and battered people who discover the hope that comes from realizing a strange and unexpected truth; in some small and subtle way the warmth and solidity of belonging makes the ache of being alive hurt just a little less. And that in itself is reason enough to stay…