I'm not even sure where to begin when talking about this book. In the beginning I felt sad for Robert, annoyed with Kay and frustrated with the situation. As the book progressed I continued to feel sad for Robert but I had hope. I was really rooting for him! I liked him and I wanted to see him happy and successful and at peace. He was such a likable character that I felt very invested in his trials and struggles. Throughout the book I found myself thinking, "Oh Robert! No! No. No. No. Don't do that you silly fool" because I wanted him to get things on track and find happiness. Kay is just horrible! She was horrible in the beginning and she stayed horrible throughout the book. I have a very strong dislike for that character. As much as I loved Robert, I equally loathe Kay. There was a brief moment about 3/4 of the way through the book where I thought that perhaps, just PERHAPS, she might have a small chance at redemption but then, in the wake of tragedy, she ruins it. She is an awful, selfish and cold person. I intensely dislike her. My dislike for her did not turn me off to the book however because sometimes it's just fun to hate a character so much. That is what Kay was to me, she was a character I loved to hate; therefore I enjoyed the book even more because she was in it. Then there were the other characters: Robert's mother who I felt sorry for and pitied; Natasha who in her own way was worse than Kay even though she was initially more likable; and Nour who was a train wreck from the beginning. Oh, what a tangled web these characters weave!
This book is classified as a "Baby Boomer" or BB book. It's written for those readers who can identify with the Baby Boomer generation in the same way that "Young Adult" or YA books are for those who can identify with that generation. The story is one that I feel is really able to connect with its target audience. Robert has worked for the United Nations for 30 years and is entering retirement. Initially he loved his job but over the years became disenchanted with his career. Can't we all identify with that? Sometimes the things we initially love become the bane of our existence. He has surrendered his life to the woman he fell in love with and ultimately ended up living in a city he didn't love, surrounded by people he didn't like and living in a home whose decor he loathed. Upon his retirement he realizes that his life was his job and he doesn't recognize himself away from it. He reignites his love for an old hobby, oil painting, and watches his life unravel as he embraced his true passions. It's a depressing thought but it serves as a really good reminder to hold on to our passions and the things we love. Only by embracing and continuing to include the hobbies and interests that define us will we be able to reconnect with ourselves upon retirement.
This book made me laugh, made me angry and made me cry. I loved characters and I hate characters. I felt invested in the people and the story. I kept hoping for a perfect fairy tale ending but this book is built around exposing realities of post-employment life and unfortunately there isn't always a perfect happy ending. It's an open-ending though and we really don't know. This book simply ends with a situation that has the potential to go two ways and it's up to the reader to imagine how life continues for Robert. I'm not sure how younger readers will respond to this book. I would like to imagine that they would be able to read it and understand how important it is to keep hold of the things that define you personally so that you don't lose yourself as you go through life but it may be a story that they are unable to identify with and therefore not enjoy. The book defines itself as a "Baby Boomer" book and it will absolutely speak to people of that generation. There were times when I felt a little disconnected from it simply because I couldn't apply my own personal life to it but I was so invested in Robert and Kay and Natasha and Nour that I was able to just sit back and enjoy the story.