I can always count on Legend Press for a really touching story. This book felt a little like Grumpy Old Men, but if that bickering relationship were built on true friendship and love. A very touching story about two elderly men figuring out life very late in the game.
The Great Unexpected by Dan Mooney
Source: cover image and blurb from Goodreads
“If you’re going to end it, you better make it big. No slipping off bridges, it’s undignified for men of our vintage. Go big or don’t bother.”
Joel lives in a nursing home and he’s not one bit happy about it. He doesn’t like being told when to eat, when to sleep, when to take his pills. In fact, he doesn’t like living at all, and he’s decided he’s going to end his life on his terms.
When he tells retired soap-actor Frank about his dark plan, Frank urges him to go out with a bang. Together, they embark on a mission to find the perfect suicide, and along the way, discover the strength of friendship when you really feel alone.
I heard about this one through Legend Press’ newsletter and the blurb sucked me in right away. This is the story of two elderly men, both stuck in a room in a nursing home together, who join together to plan a suicide. The story immediately interested me but I wasn’t sure where it would go, and somehow the author managed to give us a sweet, comedic, dark story all in one.
It is a sad story, despite the main characters’ best attempts at using humour and anger to hide their true feelings. Life in a nursing home is not stable; the residents and staff see a lot of death in their daily lives and this really starts to weigh on Joel. He moved into the home with his wife but now, alone, he’s unable to see a happy future.
I think what really made this book for me was the feeling of loneliness of the residents, because it was really palpable. Joel is almost completely overwhelmed by loneliness and you can’t help but empathize with him, even as he berates the staff and fellow residents around him because he doesn’t have another outlet. He also struggles with his limited freedoms in the home, often feeling like a child because of how he’s treated and the rules he must abide by. His adventures with Frank are in part working towards his plan but also him finding ways to assert his independence. I think this really speaks to the elderly population outside of this story as well, and the importance of recognizing their needs and the pains they may feel at losing their old ways of life. If you have an older relative in care, I think you’ll find this book especially moving.
The two men argue quite a lot, often throwing rude insults at each other but all in good fun. The banter was my favourite part and this is where it really reminded me of Grumpy Old Men, except that these two men genuinely care for each other and their banter comes out of their caring. It would be amazing to have a full-cast audiobook and be able to hear these two bickering back and forth! I’ll keep my fingers crossed for that but definitely get your hands on the written copy to read this beautiful story.
About the Author: Dan Mooney is a writer, air traffic controller and amateur filmmaker, with one of his short films broadcast on national TV. Dan is also a fan of amateur dramatics, rugby and is a friend to many cats. He wrote his first piece of fiction for a child-operated local newspaper at age ten and has been writing ever since.
He is the author of Me, Myself and Them (June 2017) and The Great Unexpected (2018). (bio from publisher’s website)
I received this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.