My adventure with A.M. Homes started from the end so to say, I read ‘May We Be Forgiven’ first and liked it a lot. It started with an earthquake and then spiraled completely out of control. Then at some point I was talking to my mum and she was telling me she has been reading this great absurd book, ‘This Book Will save Your Life’, I took a look and it was A.M. Homes again, so I happily read it and liked it even more than ‘May We Be Forgiven’. Next one up was ‘The End of Alice’, I started looking for other books by Homes and came across few reviews of this one. Sadly I could not get myself to finish it, not because it was bad, but because it was so well written it gave me permanent chills and feeling of dread and disgust, very stressful read. I just couldn’t bring myself to continue reading.
Finally I spotted ‘Music for Torching’ in one of the second-hand bookshops and the blurb intrigued me. Paul and Elaine are a typical NY suburbs couple, he works in the city, she stays at home with their two sons. They have a hate-hate-tiny-bit-of-love-or-pity relationship, venting their frustrations by being cruel to each other. One day Elaine feels so suffocated with their perfect life and her own lack of purpose that she cannot bring herself to enter the house and cook dinner. Paul comes back from work to this situation and offers to barbecue something for dinner. From one frustrated word to another they set the house on fire and take the kids out for dinner and then to a motel.
This is a fascinating portrait of midlife crisis of both the wife and the husband. Their life really lacks nothing and yet they both yearn for satisfaction, for change, for something to unsettle their ordered life. They start sabotaging it themselves, but they also lack direction. Neither of them knows what they want, but they know that what they have does not make them happy anymore. Paul and Elaine are not nice people, they are extremely self-centered, often petty and yet their frustration often seems horribly familiar even if their ways of dealing with it are a tad extreme. They rage and rebel internally against aging, against mediocrity of their life, lack of meaning and being limited to going through the motions of everyday life. They both yearn for something special, the sense of possibility they had when they were younger. A lot of people (me included) can sympathize with that but still often Paul and Elaine come across as spoiled and annoying. They do occasionally feel guilty that they don’t appreciate what they have, they know that they should, but all they want is a change, a revolution.
In the end they get what they wanted, their life is upended and irreversibly changed, but the way this happens begs for the old cliché about being careful what you wish for…