Natasha Martinez's Reviews > The Ticking Is the Bomb: A Memoir

The Ticking Is the Bomb by Nick Flynn
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Nov 15, 2011

really liked it

Nick Flynn astounds readers with brutal honesty and captivating imagery in his second memoir, The Ticking is the Bomb.

The Ticking is the Bomb by Nick Flynn. W.W Norton and Company, New York, 2010

In The Ticking is The Bomb, Flynn explores the terror of becoming a father, the injustice of war and torture, his affair between to women, his frayed relationship with his father, and the loss of his mother, which decades later, remains an important role in his life. Flynn manages to weave these heavy concepts into a breathtaking memoir that is lacking neither in its style, nor its content.

We follow Flynn during the time of “Inez’s” – one of his lovers – pregnancy as he explores the concept of torture, both in everyday life and by governments – namely our own. He delivers poignant commentary on the scandal surrounding the Abu Ghraib photographs, boldly expressing his disgust on the matter, simultaneously exploring his own past– the effect of his mother’s suicide and his attempts to reconnect with her, despite her passing, as well as his own time as an alcoholic and discovering his father in the homeless shelter he worked at. He analyzes himself in comparison to his father, a man who claims to be, like the victims of the photographs, tortured, while anxiously awaiting the birth of his unborn daughter, Maeve. As if this is not enough, he eve goes so far as to analyze the complex relationship between himself, Inez, and his other lover, Anna.

Flynn’s structure is something to praise. Each chapter consists of a series of passages that are interconnected, though their content might seem widely unrelated The effect is that the reader’s mind is saved from being numbed by accounts of the narrator’s life that eventually become dull. Instead, the reader is enlightened by important events and thoughts by the narrator that are concise and relevant to his point. Most importantly, the style interlaces the events specific to his life with events we are all familiar with. In a way, it almost mimics our own trains of thought – the way the human mind makes connections between what happens in the world and how it affects each of us personally, what memories and thoughts it calls to the surface of our minds..

Flynn’s greatest talent, however, lies in his brutal honesty, in his refusal to shy away from controversial topics: he speaks openly about his drinking problem, the growing, painful distance between he and his father, his mother’s suicide and his own inclination towards death, and the anger he feels over the Abu Ghraib photographs. He even goes so far to explain his attempts to stay with the two women he is in love with, saying, “For months I’d be speaking to one or the other on my cell phone…I’d come to the conclusion (delusion?) that if I could just get us all in the same room we could figure out a way it could work out. Another part of me, though, would have been perfectly happy to let it all play out in the shadows.” Flynn keeps up with this affair despite the fact that one of the women is pregnant with his child, and while this fact would usually have one shaking their head in disapproval, Flynn’s sincerity, his apparent love for both women and the unborn child is so raw, that we can’t help but to sympathize with him. This honesty is what makes this novel so compelling. We are given a full view of Flynn – his reactions to events in his life, events which have impacted us all, without the omission of less-than-honorable or supposedly cowardly thoughts or actions that most of us would be loathed to admit to, let alone publish to the entire world.

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