Monday, December 29, 2014

Book Review: "Wake Up Happy Every Day" by Stephen May

Ever read a book that has an excellent premise, which starts off well, and then utterly loses momentum and its way by the end?

Yeah, I have, too. And now I can add Stephen May's Wake Up Happy Every Day to that list.

Nicky Fisher and Russell Knox were childhood friends growing up in England, although over the last few years they haven't been as close. Although they shared the same upbringing, their adult lives couldn't be more different—Russell is spectacularly rich, a business giant with money all over the world, while Nicky and his girlfriend, Sarah, are struggling to make ends meet, especially after the birth of their intellectually challenged daughter, Scarlett.

So when Russell drops dead of a heart attack on his 50th birthday, while Nicky and Sarah are visiting, Nicky devises what seems like a foolproof plan—pretend that he died instead, and then he could assume Russell's identity—and they could take advantage of all of the benefits that his life would offer them. It's not like anyone would miss Nicky anyway, right?

At first, spending the money isn't an issue. It's easy (although hard work) to transform overweight, bedraggled Nicky into the well-groomed, physically fit Russell. But as they have to deal with the everyday problems—like getting care for Scarlett—they quickly realize that having all of this money isn't a guarantee for happiness, or that their relationship or their lives will be any easier.

In addition to following Russell/Nicky and Sarah's story, Wake Up Happy Every Day also follows Nicky's estranged father, who suffers from periods of dementia, and Polly, a young woman who volunteers at the assisted living facility where he lives; Lorna, an Englishwoman trying to track down her father; and Catherine, a sort-of soldier-for-hire who has a keen interest in Russell.

I felt as if the book started out really well, and just lost its way as the story unfolded. Focusing on multiple characters would have been fine, because each of these individuals was interesting in their own right, but in many cases May never really closed the loop on their connections with Russell/Nicky and Sarah. Why was Catherine hunting Russell down? What was the point in telling Polly's story? These questions were never answered.

I'm disappointed because I thought this book had a lot of promise, and I like the way May writes, but this just never hooked me.

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