Monday, December 20, 2010

The Life O'Reilly by Brian Cohen — 276 pgs

Book CoverNick O'Rielly has it all. As a partner in a hugely successful law firm, Nick spends most of his time generating revenue for his firm and living the high life. Though the firm is successful, lately there's been some negative publicity stemming from the fact that they do virtually no pro bono work for the community. When this begins to bother the owner of the firm, he chooses Nick to represent a client who is going through an ugly domestic abuse and divorce case, Dawn Nelson and her young son Jordan. Though Nick tries to maintain a professional air with Dawn, he can't help but feel a spark of attraction to her, and in this case it's reciprocated. When the news leaks that Dawn and Nick may be more involved than propriety dictates, Nick's superiors put pressure on him to leave the firm. Though it comes as a shock to him, Nick realizes that the best parts of his life have been wasted at the firm and all his hard work has amounted to nothing. Taking the high road, Nick agrees to resign and to begins focusing on life with Dawn and Jordan, but fate has other things in mind for the new family. Though Nick and Dawn should have a life destined for happiness, a new complication from an old injury arises for Nick and soon the new family is in the pit of crisis again. Both uplifting and heartbreakingly sad, The Life O'Reilly is the story of one man's journey on the road of life, complete with all the joys and cruelties that befall him along the way.

This isn't the type of book I normally read. For some reason, I have a harder time enjoying books of this nature and often find myself shying away from them. I would have to say although this book tended to be a little dramatic, once I pushed my prejudices aside I actually found that I was able to connect with the characters, and especially towards the end, this book had me very involved.

Nick is a decent guy in a cutthroat world. Though he's put in all the time and effort to become a great lawyer, he knows there's something missing in his life. It seemed like he felt his life's work was fulfilling in some ways, but that he lacked some nebulous human connection and emotional tie with others in general, and more specifically, with a partner. While I was reading, I felt very sorry for Nick because I could see he wasn't happy and that all the work he was putting in was only wearing him down. When things finally get rolling with his representing Dawn, it wasn't hard to see what would happen; but despite the fact that it was a bit predictable, I felt a genuine happiness for him and wanted the boundaries between the two to be broken, regardless of the consequences. Dawn was representative of a lot of the things Nick had been missing in his life: love, spontaneity and the ability for him to create a legacy out of something other than his work.

Though there was a lot of tension in the middle of the plot line, certain things felt a little more loose and sometimes felt too predictable. Some of the foreshadowing was done with a heavier hand than what I'm used to, but the main thing I took away was its message, and in that respect, I think the book clearly delivered and was successful in its aim. What the book said to me was that life can be unpredictable in the extreme, and as humans, we need to realize our dreams can't wait forever to be gratified. Careers and goals can only give us so much, and in order for life to be fully lived, it's sometimes necessary to venture outside the boundaries we've created for ourselves. Sometimes the things you think are important in your life are not the things that truly matter, and when the chance comes to break away and change our lives in ways that do matter, it's imperative that we do so. All of this was evident in the path that Nick took, and all of it brought home the messages and concepts of fulfillment and desired outcomes. The book made me ask questions about my life and what it all boils down to, and although it was sometimes simplistic in the way it conveyed these messages, it ultimately had the desired impact on my psyche and made me think about my life in a different way.

The conclusion was stunningly sad, and although I knew what was coming, it didn't stop me from having a viscerally powerful reaction to the story itself. Life is what we make of it, yes, but in the case of Nick O'Reilly, I felt there was something haunting about the way his life played out. Just when he had grasped hold of a wispy happiness and was turning his dreams into reality, shocking news comes his way that changes everything about his life. During these sections of the book, I actually gained more respect for and felt more cohesiveness with the characters, and it was alternately painful and gratifying to see their lives start to revolve around the hand fate had dealt them. In a way, Nick's life had come full circle, yet in another more obvious way, his life had ceased to exist as he knew it the moment the news was delivered. It was a poignant bit of storytelling that Cohen managed with these characters, and at no time did they step out of character or become unrecognizable in their grief. In fact, they seemed to grow in their ability to love and in their regard and zest for life, which is something I found not only to be amazing, but uplifting as well. Yes, the pain they went through shaped and changed them, but it didn't change the story they were trying to write for themselves.

While I don't think I fully connected with all this story had to offer, I'm sure this has more to do with my tastes and preferences as a reader rather than anything the author did or failed to do. At its heart, this is a story about redemption and an emotional legacy, and reading it was important to me for a lot of reasons. The messages it delivered were very deftly managed, as were the character portrayals, and although I did have some slight misgivings about it, I can honestly say this read is definitely worth your time. It's impossible not be moved by the story Cohen tells, and I would bet that all who read this book will find a space in their heart for the ineffably courageous Nick O'Reilly.

This book was provided as a complimentary review copy.


bermudaonion said...

I've seen quite a few good reviews of this book and still had my doubts as to whether it would be a book for me or not. Your review makes me think I might enjoy it.

Sandy Nawrot said...

Wow, excellent review! I'm not sure I would have given it much consideration if not for your heartfelt explanation. I can handle a little bit of predictability, as long as the writing and the emotion can off set it.

TheBookGirl said...

I had not heard of this one before, and given the synopsis, it is one that I probably would not pick up now, although I may well have several years ago. Your review makes a compelling case, but I don't think it is for me.
Then again, I've been surprised recently (never thought I would like the Hannah book as much as I did), so you never know :)

rhapsodyinbooks said...

Jeez, I was all ready to get this IMMEDIATELY until you said, "The conclusion was stunningly sad." ACK! Now I'm afraid to read it!

Darlene said...

I've wondered about this book since it first came out. I'm not entirely sure it's for me but it does sound like an intriguing story. I've always really liked the cover.

Suko said...

Terrific review! I read this a while ago and thought it was a really great novel with an uplifting message. Zibilee, I'm glad you took a chance on this one and became involved with the story.

Jenners said...

This sounds like such a heart-breaking book, and I really feel strongly about the messages it has. I think I'll have to read this one too.

Amy said...

Great review even though you say it wasn't a favorite or your usual type of story. Definitely sounds like there was a lot going on, too bad it was a bit predictable though.

Aarti said...

Great review, Heather! Like you, I tend to shy away from these books. I think I will continue to do so, as I have difficulty reading books that I KNOW will end sadly, even if they are beautifully written.

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