A Long Way Down

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Suicide and humor are two words not often associated with each other, but Nick Hornby takes the pair on in his novel A Long Way Down, a dark comedy about suicide and life after a failed attempt. The book is narrated by four characters taking turns telling the story in their voice. The resulting hodgepodge gang includes Martin, a quasi celebrity who loses everything after an affair with a fifteen-year old girl; Maureen, the middle-aged mother of a severely disabled son; Jess, an obnoxious teenager living recklessly to avoid her reality of a missing sister; and JJ, the American and aspiring musician who's found himself lonely and alone in England. This unexpected group meets on New Year's Eve on the roof of the well-known suicide spot Topper's House, where each has gone separately with the intention of ending their lives. The four agree to at least postpone their plans once they realize they'd be jumping in front of a crowd. Becoming a sort of support system for each other, the characters begin the process of figuring out what led them up onto the roof that fateful evening. Ninety days after Martin, Maureen, Jess, and JJ first stumbled upon each other, they return to the roof to take inventory of the past three months and find that each one of them is willing to try to rebuild or reconstruct their lives. A Long Way Down's decidedly predictable ending falls short with its lack of imagination but does illustrate the novel's theme that in sharing a common feeling of despair people can bring some small amount of hope to each other. With a conversation about a Ferris wheel in the distance, Martin, Maureen, Jess, and JJ's adventure ends in the same way that it began, on top of Topper's House. Closing the book, Martin asks if the Ferris wheel is really moving, to which Maureen muses, "It didn't look as though it was moving, but it must have been, I suppose" (Hornby 333). Hornby clarifies the theme with this simple analogy in which their lives are the Ferris wheel and...
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