Patrick Duncan's Reviews > Next

Next by James Hynes
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's review
Jan 26, 2011

really liked it
Read from January 26 to 28, 2011

** spoiler alert ** This is really a 3.5 (and the .5 is from the ending). My problem here is that basically, the author has put all of his metaphorical eggs in one basket. The payoff of the entire novel is predicated on the payoff of the last section and if you haven't bought into the preceding sections it or aren't willing to follow the author as he goes from the normal meanderings of a middle-aged man's mind and into the stark reality of a terrorist attack then the whole thing falls flat. That being said, even though I didn't completely buy into the emotional resolution, the last section of the book still hit me like a gut punch. After spending the first two thirds of the book following this stunted, emotional disaster of a man around as he effectively lets his libido drag him around an unfamiliar city, it was a complete shock to end on such a sudden, emotional and serious note.

That being said, even though the last section of the book is a great piece of writing, especially the last few pages as Kevin slips into a stream-of-consciousness wish for the future, the emotional climax felt false to me. Perhaps I am being cynical but I didn't buy that he had a life-altering epiphany halfway to the ground and realized that he did after all love the girlfriend he had spent the entire novel feeling ambivalent about. It felt more that he knew he was on his way out and was trying to make his exit on a good note. After all, who wouldn't want a deathbed epiphany? Especially one that involves a hypothetical child that will carry part of you into a future that no longer have a part in.

Still, it is truly a powerhouse finale and a severe emotional twist that gave the novel a lot more heft and meaning than it might otherwise have held.

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