Next by James Hynes
James Hynes has once again written a book that is difficult to describe. Next, along with his previous books, takes the reader down a path that feels both comfortable and familiar for the first three quarters of the book. Then, something happens. An event or a turn in that path that is totally unexpected, but which in hindsight you realize, was foreshadowed from page one. This time, that event completely changed what the book was about for me. It changed from a simple character-driven story to one that I think will cause everyone who reads it to contemplate what is, and what should be, the most important things in their life.
The story is about Kevin Quinn, a middle-aged man on a plane bound for Austin, Texas where he's got a job interview. Kevin hasn't told anyone that he's going, not even his long-term girlfriend who's half his age and who would be crushed if she knew he was contemplating leaving her and starting over in a new state. The idea of attending the interview for a job that he's not even sure he'd take if they offered it to him has become an afterthought, due to the young lady sitting next to him on the plane. He can't stop thinking about her. She's like a hybrid of two women from his past, the only women he realizes he's probably ever loved. On an impulse, he decides to follow her.
Most of the remainder of the story describes the path his life takes for the rest of the day because of that decision. It's a path filled with Kevin's ruminations about the women he's been in relationships with, his relationship with his parents, and the realization that his best years are probably behind him. Then everything changes for him in an instant.
A great book. But not one for the easily offended.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆