Dysfunctional households are Matthew Fast’s specialty, and the newest novel from the writer of The Silver Linings Playbook doesn’t deviate from that focus. The Purpose You’re Alive offers with the affect of PTSD, despair, and adultery on a Philadelphia household, but additionally zooms in on the particularly sharp divides created by America’s tradition wars. Fast forces each readers and characters to reexamine their first impressions via his narrator, David Granger, a self-described “American patriot” who manages to be each likable and sympathetic regardless of his fixed rhetoric about “the good Jihad,” “bullshit world warming theories,” and different right-wing favourite topics.
The story opens with the 68-year-old David in a hospital after having a automotive accident brought on by a mind tumor. His estranged, liberal son Hank is compelled to try reconciliation by his dad’s well being and his personal marital troubles. That course of reveals how little Hank is aware of about his father, from the wrongs he dedicated in the course of the Vietnam Struggle to his surprisingly numerous good friend group.
David doesn’t concern his personal mortality, satisfied that demise comes solely to those that have “purchased the bullet” and given up on life. However the tumor—which he blames on publicity to Agent Orange—leads him on a journey to make peace with the previous and enhance his future. Whereas the e book is general mild and generally laugh-out-loud humorous, it shifts tone shortly between a rom-com-style plot the place David tries to set Hank up with Sue—the adopted Vietnamese daughter of a fellow veteran, as a result of he hates Hank’s Dutch spouse—to David’s survivor’s guilt of managing a comparatively regular life when so lots of his fellow troopers couldn’t.
The traumas of warfare and America’s remedy of its veterans are an ongoing theme—it’s no coincidence the e book is being launched on July four—with David caught within the irritating place of sheltering his son from the worst of his wartime dealings whereas additionally feeling unappreciated for his service. A number of of David’s veteran pals have discovered closure in their very own methods, and The Purpose You’re Alive is basically in regards to the energy to forgive each your self and others. A lot of David’s life, each the nice and unhealthy components, have been dominated by guilt, concern, and an incapability to narrate nicely to those that don’t perceive these components of himself.
In traditional Fast style, the novel is stuffed with intriguing supporting characters. However at solely 240 pages, the e book leaves most of them largely unexplored. That’s superb in some instances the place it’s clear that David is simply getting a glimpse into their lives, but it surely makes too most of the e book’s conflicts really feel glossed over. Hank’s spouse’s infidelity strikes the plot ahead and fuels a colourful rant about ladies—what they need and the warning indicators he ought to have seen—however the causes for it and the reconciliation that follows are by no means adequately defined. That shortcoming is especially sharp when contrasted with Fast’s extra developed characters just like the gun-loving Sue, who’s change into David’s surrogate daughter, and David’s artist spouse and her struggles with motherhood and despair.
The Purpose You’re Alive too typically feels divided into how David sees himself and the way Hank sees him. It could have been good to actually get the angle of one among David’s pals about how they have been capable of see via his typically stereotypical rhetoric to get to love and respect the nice man beneath. David calls Sue “genetically Vietnamese” to tell apart her as a very good American versus the Vietnamese individuals he fought within the warfare; he refers to his spin teacher as “Homosexual Timmy” and opines on the stamina required to get via a “homosexual banquet.” The purpose is that the real friendships David has reveals that his tolerance needs to be judged by his actions not phrases, in distinction to Hank’s political correctness that David judges to be only for present. However the result’s that David feels idealized even for all his flaws.
The Purpose You’re Alive has already been optioned as a film, and its mixture of breezy humor and poignant reveals is ideal for the massive display. It’s not prone to clear up too many household feuds, however there’s advantage in its message that persons are hardly ever totally as they appear.
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