This probably won’t come as much of a surprise to anyone, but I read a lot. I always have a book going, both print (or Kindle) and audio (for my daily commute, and my treadmill time). I think one of my problems is that I enjoy just about everything. I have known library patrons who read only thrillers, or only romances. I almost envy their precision; I have a hard time reading everything that interests me! And yet, notice that I said “Almost.” At the end of the day, I enjoy my varied interests and tastes—even if it makes my reading decisions a bit harder.
I have learned over the years – finally – to put down any book that doesn’t live up to my standards, be they technical writing standards or good plot standards—whatever. It’s okay to start a book and abandon it if you are rolling your eyes and groaning at poor editing or boneheaded plot devices. That’s why the book “The Last Time I Died” by Joe Nelms was such a problem for me.
This debut novel features Christian Franco, a miserable main character with real problems. He’s getting a divorce, his career is imploding, his friendships are falling away. He has taken to hanging out in bars, hoping to get into a brawl. Pain seems to bring peace to him; or it at least takes his mind off his life for a moment. But one night, he loses the fight, and is beaten to death in a bar fight. While in that limbo between life and death, Christian sees a scene from his childhood, a memory that has been repressed for years. His father is sitting in the back of a police car, mouthing “I’m sorry” to nine-year-old Christian. His mother is dead, being wheeled away on a gurney. Christian is resuscitated, brought back to life both literally and figuratively. He must know more about his childhood. What did that scene mean? Why can’t he remember more? And so he sets off to discover his past in the only way that seems to work for him: dying just enough to see more of his life flash before him, but being rescued before it’s too late.
What a bizarre concept for a novel!
I couldn’t quite decide if I liked it—and yet I devoured this thing. I just couldn’t put it down, both because of the plot line and because of the beautiful writing (and excellent vocabulary!) It would be a great read for a discussion group; lots to talk about, lots to love and/or hate.
I wanted to know the truth just as badly as Christian. It’s hard when you don’t like a main character, and yet Christian Franco fascinated me. He was nuts! But nuts in a crazily logical way.
Even now, I don’t think I can say I liked it or I hated it; the best I can do is say it left me sort of speechless, and thinking about the story long after I finished the last page.