Just when it seems Michael O’Dell is getting his middle-aged life in order, the darndest thing happens.
After taking a year off to finish his magnum opus (the definitive book on Australian cinema), he comes off second best to a speeding car while jogging. Relieved to find he isn’t dead (and who wouldn’t be!), O’Dell sets his sights on a quick recovery. But instead of an upward trajectory, his life begins to unravel at an astonishing pace.
His daughter is involved in a fight at school that looks set to have dire consequences for the whole family. His son becomes embroiled in the trafficking of drugs. And a vigilante cop seems to have picked O’Dell as his chump-of-the-week. On top of all this, the cocktail of pills prescribed to aid his recovery unleashes a range of unwanted mental and physical side effects.
Medicated to the hilt, O’Dell’s depressive behaviour leads to a raft of foolish decisions that exacerbate each minor difficulty. If it wasn’t for his ever-so-rational wife Wendy, things would really get out of hand.
Lamprell’s debut novel wallows in a great vat of (humorous) self-pity, not unlike the writing of Nick Earls or Nick Hornby. The author lightens what could be an unrelentingly downbeat novel with his assured writing and timely comic twists.
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