“The Survival of Marvin Baines” – by Michael Meyer

There’s something to be said for reading a book at exactly the right time. The Survival of Marvin Baines was a wake-up call I didn’t necessarily need, but could certainly relate to at this time in my life.

Marvin Baines is a thirty-something-approaching-forty married-man-with-family who has reached a crisis. Yes, it really is that simple so there’s no need to expect elaborate plotting. This novel is all about exploring one man’s middle age breakdown. Baines throws away his career as an English teacher and takes up toilet installations – he wants to work with his hands. This is the first step in what is certainly a bizarre descent.

The need to find meaning, freedom and his “lost” manhood haunts him and leads to an increasing neglect of his wife and family. At the start of the novel, we are faced with Baines at the breaking point, when his mounting dissatisfaction starts to manifest itself as delusions which convince him to take up a supposedly more admirable and meaningful pursuit (for his survival).

Although, this probably doesn’t read as amusing, I would categorise it as dark humour. Throughout the book, the impact of Baines’ crisis on his family and friend is touched on, but the author avoids digging too deeply. Instead, the focus is predominantly on the main character and his progressively more immature choices. I feel that the author is making fun of this middle-aged male need to regress to boyhood as Baines’ decisions become more ridiculous. Eventually, Baines’ journey is stopped abruptly by an encounter with a teenage fantasy in the flesh.

The writing is almost overly simplistic, but given the material I didn’t feel the need for complex sentence structure. The character himself exhibited a fairly deliberate disregard for the English language, probably as a rebellion against his previous profession as an English teacher. Basically, these “short-comings” seemed to fit.

I had fun reading The Survival of Marvin Baines. I didn’t have a problem with the lampooning of this mainly male phenomenon despite its possible personal applicability (or maybe because of it). If you read it you’ll find someone you know to have a laugh at – and if not, at least have a laugh at the expense of Marvin Baines.

Rating: 3.5/5

Price at the time of review: $2.99 US

Available: Amazon

GoodReads page: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/12228180-the-survival-of-marvin-baines

This entry was posted in 3.5, General Fiction, Novel and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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