Interesting weaving of 4 first person accounts of a group that meets on a roof just before they attempt to commit suicide. At times, I wanted to put iInteresting weaving of 4 first person accounts of a group that meets on a roof just before they attempt to commit suicide. At times, I wanted to put it down and give it up, namely at the point that the teenage character takes over the narrative. Much like Harry Potter in the 5th book, fictional teenagers are done best when they drive you nuts as an adult reader. Each character is brilliantly deep, and the title of the book is a metaphor for the further falling that someone can do after considering that suicide is their only option left.
Nick Hornby hasn't really caught me since "About A Boy" and "High Fidelity", both of which I highly recommend. "How To Be Good" digs into a much more serious fare compared to his previous two outings, and lacks the little touches of Hornby's personality that I truly loved in his previous novels: his humor and his passion for music. There is a character that clearly embodies both of these aspects in "A Long Way Down", and I was drawn to him more than the others.
Hornby hits a few profound notes: Jess, the troubled teenager, talks about the fact that she could try to be good, but left to herself she can't do it. It's like telling a bathtub full of water to pull the plug but not let the water drain; it just can't happen. Brilliant illustration of sin. The whole concept of this suffering community of souls, all with different entry points, are able to carry each other through. One of the characters is a devout Catholic, and she is never ridiculed for her having faith; in a way, she's the one they most respect because she has stuck with it the longest and continues to struggle with her hurts.
In the end, a mostly satisfying read, but should follow a reading of the rest of Hornby's catalog. I enjoy every one of his books, but much like those U2 fans still waiting for another "Joshua Tree", I long for another "High Fidelity" from Hornby. But like a good music fan, I understand that Hornby will continue to explore his art rather than trying to play the same note for his entire career....more