Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The A-Z of You and Me

Title:  The A-Z of You and Me
Author:  James Hannah
Publication Information:  Sourcebooks Limited. 2016. 336 pages.
ISBN:  149263316X / 9781492633167

Book Source:  I received this book as a publisher's galley through NetGalley free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "I know exactly what you'd be saying to me now."

Favorite Quote:  "Just - just don't leave anything unsaid to the people who matter. It only takes a few worlds to change your world."

What attracted me to this book is the cover and the premise. The "Me" of this book is Ivo. The "You" is revealed to be his once-girlfriend Mia. Ivo is a forty-some year old man, dying alone in a hospice.

As a means of coping and passing the long days alone, he plays a game. Starting with the letter A and going all the way to Z, he thinks of a body part beginning with that letter and a memory of his life associated with it. In this structure, the book gradually reveals the history of his life. The history has love and friendship, but for the most part, it is a history of mistakes and regrets. What happens to Ivo and Mia's relationship is at the heart of Ivo's memories and his regrets.

The structure of the book centered around memories creates a nonlinear story. Each chapter reveals some part of Ivo's story. His diabetes diagnosis. His own abuse of his body. His love. His friendships. The mistake that has catastrophic results and becomes a turning point in his life. Each letter of the alphabet reveals some part of the puzzle as to how Ivo ends up alone at the end of his short life. Unfortunately, for me, this structure makes the book difficult to follow and to relate to until enough pieces exist to create at least somewhat of a picture. For me, this comes too late in the book. I spend too much time waiting for the picture to emerge and too much energy trying to keep the specifics of the relationships and chronology sorted in my mind.

My favorite character in the book is Sheila, one of the nurses at the hospice. She is not really part of Ivo's story, but she grounds his memories and anchors the book to the present. She gives credence to Ivo's regrets and his emotional pain beyond his physical ailments. She is the gentle reminder throughout that he must let go of his guilt and his regrets, more for himself than anyone else. In effect, Sheila gives voice to the lesson in the book - the futility of regrets if you do not choose a different action moving forward.

This book is a sad one. On the surface, it is sad of course because it deals with a young man dying. To me, it is so much sadder because Ivo's life seems to center on regrets. His joyous memories are tarnished by those regrets, and his sadness is magnified by the regrets. Unfortunately, the one thing regrets cannot accomplish is to undo the mistakes made.

I feel terrible. I feel bad for the main character of this book. He is is a fairly young man, and he is dying. In the process of dying, he is living with regrets. I feel really bad for the main character. However, I feel even worse that even with such a seemingly sympathetic main character, I do not fall in love with the character or the story. I appreciate the writing and structure of the book, but the characters and the emotions do not capture my heart.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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