Four suicidal depressives, meaning to do themselves in, meet on the same London rooftop—and form a pact—in an unpredictably comic fourth novel from Hornby.
Except for a few mini-dissertations on rock and the Beatles, there are times when you’d hardly know that music- and pop-culture-obsessed Hornby (How to Be Good, 2001, etc.) was this story’s author. It’s New Year’s Eve, and four people are converging on top of a building called Toppers’ House. There are Jess, the slightly deranged daughter of a high-ranking politician; Martin, a former TV host just out of jail for statutory rape (girl was15, said16); JJ, a newly single Chicago musician whose band recently broke up; and Maureen, a devout Catholic and single mother raising a son who’s been in a coma since birth. Needless to say, all have good reasons to off themselves (well, except JJ, which is why he pretends for a time to have a fatal illness), but coming together in such a random fashion forms a strange bond, and, instead of jumping off, they become friends, sort of. Making a pact to reassess their options in 90 days, they start meeting regularly, since there’s nobody else they can talk to. Always a sucker for the happy ending, Hornby doesn’t disappoint, but that’s not to say he takes the easy road out. This is a group that spends more time firing caustic broadsides at each other and heaping more turmoil on their already tattered lives than in figuring out their grand purpose—and there’s little in the way of epiphany awaiting them. The solution (if any) to their despair is more likely to come in a small moment of kindness than in any best-selling therapist’s notion of closure. With the exception of a perfunctory subplot about the pact’s brief time in the media spotlight, this is a well-executed and thoughtful tale that never digs too deep and simultaneously doesn’t denigrate the seriousness of its characters’ dilemmas.
Highly moving and lively storytelling: Hornby’s gifts become more apparent with each outing.