You'll be just fine, Danny boy.
Synopsis of A Work in Progress by Brad Cotton: Writer Danny Bayle’s life is in shambles. His true love has left him and his grandfather — the last and most important influence in his life—has just passed away. Danny has spent the last few months languishing, unable to write a single word, but at the urging of a friend ventures out into the world in an attempt to jumpstart a new life, befriending in the process an interesting assortment of characters including an author, a musician, an artist, and an elderly retired nurse. Garnering the attention of more than one woman, Danny sees his new friends unwittingly begin to shape what could just be the story of his life. But will he ever let go of the girl that got away?
My two centsI seem to be getting quite a few books written by male authors, featuring male authors and their writing -- usually anguished, angsty, writing (like this and this). And so I have stumbled upon another ...
But hey, Danny Bayle is ordinary and bland. In fact nothing really sticks in my mind about him. He's written one book which doesn't sell very well (very self-deprecating about it) and of course he continues to write. He is wallowing in his recent break up with his girlfriend Carah. He's recently lost his grandfather. He plods along, sort of aimlessly, with no real care in the world.
But maybe because I'm naturally nosy, I kept reading about the humdrum life of Danny Bayle. I didn't really see what was the point of this rather unmemorable character. A 28-year-old who was acting like a total teenager? But as I got to know him, he started to grow on me -- like someone you hang around a lot, and you end up picking up on their small nuances, their little quirks, and you just start to like them.
Danny starts to come out of his shell; he tries to move on. He tries karate (not for him), drumming lessons (a little more luck), falls into group therapy, takes on an unlikely lover, and makes some even more unlikely friends along the way. Danny Bayle is a "work in progress" in this unlikely coming-of-age story.
***Danny Bayle has an endearing quality to him despite his sleeping around, his drinking, his pot smoking, his general bumming around ... he is a "nice guy," an all around "good guy." On the flip side, this is where I got this rather weird vibe about Danny's character, as though all these "dastardly" male acts are more for a show of bravado, like a young boy trying to act like the cool older guy. Yeah, I may be reading too much into his character but he seemed a sanitized version of a male ... or maybe just because he's just emotionally naive?
I had a feeling of High Fidelity about this book, with Danny's fixation on his ex-girlfriend Carah (who I didn't quite like for Danny in the first place). Katherine, a vivacious lovely young painter, who Danny becomes deeply connected with was much more interesting to me. And the fact that there's the woman he just happens to sleep around with (tsk tsk, typical male!) I think overall, the women in this book were such a nice range of different personalities!
The storyline isn't what I was expecting. Because I don't want to spoil it for anyone, I'll simply say that Danny will be fine, just fine. All those strange little details will fall into place and things will make sense. Besides, we all figure it out somehow and come out better people for it, right?
Verdict: Endearing, heartbreaking, tragic yet hopeful. Get to know Danny Bayle and find out why the journey rather then ending is what makes this book.
Uh-oh: When I first saw the cover, its minimalism struck me as at odds with the contents. Think greeting card. Its abstractness is understood only if you read the book; it may not attract too many readers as it's just too much work to figure it out at first look.
Check out Brad Cotton's guest post where he answers some common questions from readers and writers alike (funny reading!).
I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.
A Work in Progress by Brad Cotton