The Great Unexpected by Dan Mooney Legend Press August 15th 2018
If you’re going to end it, you better make it big. No slipping off bridges, it’s undignified for men of our vintage. Go big or don’t bother.”
Joel lives in a nursing home and he’s not one bit happy about it. He doesn’t like being told when to eat, when to sleep, when to take his pills. In fact, he doesn’t like living at all, and he’s decided he’s going to end his life on his terms.
When he tells retired soap-actor Frank about his dark plan, Frank urges him to go out with a bang. Together, they embark on a mission to find the perfect suicide, and along the way, discover the strength of friendship when you really feel alone.
What happens when we start the slow decline into old age? For some it’s being looked after by relatives whilst for others it’s the care home, a place of safety, 24 hour care and hopefully happiness.
But what if the care home you reside in is not your happy place, but instead your prison, where others tell you what you can do, when you eat, when you take your pills, and treat you like the 5 year old you once were.
This is how Joel wakes up every morning, the bed next to him occupied by a comatose resident, who to his delight doesn’t answer back and doesn’t complain about his TV choices. In fact Joel is so unhappy, he’s depressed and decides the only way out is to kill himself. The death of his room mate and the arrival of Frank, retired soap opera star, are where this novel suddenly takes off, offering a glimpse into old age, the world of care homes and more importantly the life of someone who lives in one of them.
What struck me about The Great Unexpected was Mooney’s grasp and understanding of his character, Joel. He showed us a man who had watched his wife die, who had had his independence stripped from him, who saw no reason to carry on. I couldn’t help but feel desperately sorry for Joel, no one asked what he wanted, or considered his feelings, he was merely a problem that needed fixing.
Mooney’s genius addition, Frank, instantly lifted the mood of the novel. I loved Frank’s charisma, his personality, his ability to only see the positive, and ultimately his skill in getting under Joel’s skin and to pop the depressive bubble he lived in.
Their antics reminded me of a couple of teenagers, escaping at night to have fun, only to be caught the next day and punished. There were a couple of scenes that really made me chuckle and my imagination ran wild as I visualised Joel and Frank’s nightly escapades!
Mooney’s skill was the way in which he used their antics to unlock Joel, to force those around him, to think about his feelings and more importantly what he wanted. It was the slow realisation of Joel’s family and nursing staff that he still had something to offer society, that he required respect and the courtesy of being treated like an adult.
I did wonder if Mooney had had personal experience, so realistic and true his portrayal of Joel and his circumstances. The poignancy he evoked was extremely touching at times, yet he didn’t delve the novel into one entire depressive monologue, interspersing great swathes of humour that made for a real rollercoaster of a read.
I loved Joel, and I loved Frank, they were naughty, funny, and real, their friendship so moving and delightful, that I hope all those living in care homes can have the same friendship, the same fun, be treated with the respect and courtesy they deserve
I would like to thank Legend Press for a copy of The Great Unexpected to read and review and for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour.
About the author
Dan Mooney is a writer, air traffic controller and amateur filmmaker, with one of his short films broadcast on national TV. Dan is also a fan of amateur dramatics, rugby and is a friend to many cats. He wrote his first piece of fiction for a child-operated local newspaper at age ten and has been writing ever since.
He is the author of Me, Myself and Them (June 2017) and The Great Unexpected (2018).
Follow Dan on Twitter @danielmoonbags
Further details and where you can purchase The Great Unexpected can be found at http://www.legendtimesgroup.co.uk/legend-press/books/1915-the-great-unexpected