I was given an advance copy of this book through The Book club on Facebook in exchange for a fair and honest review.
What would it be like to one day be walking along the road with your wife, feeling the impact as a car crashes into you and then to be watching your wife cradling your dying body? But then you realise that you aren’t watching yourself die from some faraway place, but you are actually in a body and have a voice….that belong to someone else?!
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Dan is a homeless man, wandering the streets of Brighton when he witnesses this fatal car crash and his life changes completely. His head is suddenly inhabited by someone else, claiming to be called Joe and saying that he is the dead man. How can this be happening? Add into the equation the wife of dead Joe, staring at him at the scene of the crash and asking over and over if he saw it….Dan/Joe doesn’t know what is happening! Sometime later he comes across the wife, Natalie, sitting in the park and after he speaks to her, he determines to follow her home and Joe wants to tell her that he is still here.
Natalie is stunned when the homeless man turns up on her doorstep several months after the death of her husband Joe with his story. She surprises herself and Dan when she lets him into her home, and then into her life. Does Natalie truly believe that her husband is somehow now inhabiting another man’s body, or does she have a different motive for inviting a stranger into her home? Does she even understand this herself – after all she is a grieving widow? As Dan starts to open up about his life before he found himself on the streets, is it possible that Natalie can help him to find his way home again?
This is a beautifully crafted surprise of a book. The storyline is actually very simple, dealing primarily with human relationships and emotion. The writer manages to explore bereavement, grief, love and anger, whilst also including domestic abuse, family conflict, manipulation, miscommunication and mental illness. The growing relationship between Natalie and Dan is fascinating as they learn to trust each other and themselves. They are flawed characters and yet the way that they change and grow made me alter my opinions of them along the way. Mr Cooper has written these characters with such compassion and tenderness that it is impossible not to care for them. I felt that this care was also shown toward the secondary characters – Dan’s father, Natalie’s parents and even Joe’s mother.
This book is not what it seems to be at the outset. But then the title should give us a clue, as what is the definition of “Ordinary” – it will be different for all of us. In the current climate it is wonderful to read a novel that has such a positive and empathetic insight into mental health and mental illness. There are surprises for both the reader and the characters as to who has the greater needs and the importance to have insight into one’s own situation. Whilst the story is simple and focuses on these two, or maybe it is three people, there are many twists and turns that will pull you in and certainly had me hooked.
I found this an intense and emotional read from start to finish and would describe The Pursuit of Ordinary to be absolutely extraordinary. A huge 5 stars!
Publisher: Roundfire (27 april 2018)
Goodreads Author: Nigel Jay Cooper
About the Author – Nigel Jay Cooper
Writer and author, born in London, England. He now lives in Brighton (via Nottingham) with his partner, their two children and greying ginger dog.
Following on from the success of his bestselling debut novel, Beat The Rain, Nigel’s second novel The Pursuit of Ordinary will be published on 27 April 2018 and is available to pre-order now. Nigel was nominated for a Goodreads Choice Award in the Best Debut Author for Beat The Rain. Nigel previously worked as a writer and editor for Channel 4 Television and as a newspaper sub editor.
He’s a sometime marathon runner and occasional actor and singer in local musical theatre productions. Sometimes his brain switches off and lets him sleep, but not that often.
2 thoughts on “Book review: The Pursuit of Ordinary by Nigel Jay Cooper”
Sounds like a good one! Thanks for sharing. I’m all about twisted stories.
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This sounds like a fascinating read, and the more simple storyline actually appeals to me given the underlying impact it has and how gripping it is. It also made me wonder how many people would take in a homeless person. Great review – I’ll check this one out as I’d not come across it before and I do like to have books lined up ready to read given as how reading is my one solace! Thanks for this 🙂
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