I have just finishing reading this book by Aidan McNally.
Honestly, I have never felt so conflicted about a book in my life! I have absolutely no idea how to rate it, as every number out of 5 stars feels wrong to me. If you are reading this then I assume that you want an honest answer and quite frankly a number is never going to sit right with this book.
If you want an honest, told-as-it-is, frank, raw, redemption story (of sorts) then this deserves full marks. If you want a well written, organised, well edited, flowing story, …then sadly forget it, as it fails completely on every count. Not just below par, but failed completely.
And yet I don’t feel that he earns a fail on this book either. I have no idea who he is or how he wrote this, but it plays out as if he is sitting there with a dictaphone and a beer, and just tells his truth as he knows it. Warts and all, sex scenes and all, blurring truths and mistakes and a few contradictions to make it a true “pub story”.
A middle of the road rating would be totally unfair, it is nothing middle of the road…
At times it is truly gripping, at others I really had to trudge through a bunch of boring repetitive stories which quite frankly, it doesn’t matter exactly where the truth lies. I expected a book about the loss of two sons, and I was truly moved by all the stories of Aidan’s upbringing and background. But in the middle third of the book there are stories that are basically repeats of the same thing over and over.
I know what it is like to make the same mistakes repeatedly, and I know what it is like to stupidly give someone you love a second, third and even hundredth chance when they “don’t deserve it”. But I think that he could have done well to have condensed some of the repetition and concentrated more on the overall picture of some of the stories.
I felt for this man, and somehow he had me hooked enough to speed read through the bad bits and keep going, …so I have to give him a ton of credit for that. I also have to give him a ton of credit for baring his heart and soul so rawly and so openly. And he deserves a medal for going so far out on a limb and making this book happen when he is clearly not a writer at all. If there is any doubting the facts in any of the stories in it, this book backs up his tenacity and “make-it-happen” attitude. At a very basic level the fact that he has written this book and published it and made it happen, in what appears to be only a few weeks (the story ends very soon before the book went live), shows that he is a survivor and a trooper and that he thinks outside the square.
The two main issues for me are firstly the terrible way that it is written, and secondly the focus of the book not being quite what it is presented to be.
Even the most basic sweep of editing would improve this book dramatically, … although having said that, my hesitation comes in the form of not wanting to lose the spirit of this man, the voice behind his story, and so a basic sweep is desperately needed. So is a deeper level of editing but it would take an expert to do that without losing who Aidan MacNally is.
The second problem (for me that is), is that there is way too much focus on some of the truly boring stuff, and no where near enough on the events that hook people into buying the book and hearing his story. I hate spoiling endings for people so I won’t say what happens, but the things that drew me to the book came very late in the story and while deeply moving and tragic, were relatively skimmed over and there are many unanswered questions which he opens up but doesn’t finish.
More importantly however is that at the very end of the book a completely different agenda appears and I felt as though this is more what he is asking his readers to hear. Yet there is no reference to that in the marketing. I felt as though I went into this with one agenda but that it suddenly switched to another at the end… I would have preferred to have a better understanding of what he was trying to do.
To finish, here are some more up sides: I think that the name is very clever, there are some subtle threads through the story which are encouraging and uplifting and remind me that there is still much good in human beings, and lastly there is something that Aidan manages to bring to the table that makes me simply want him to succeed …in life, in his final dilemma, and with his book. I feel that there is much potential here, but he needs a bit of a helping hand to make it great!
*Please note that this is not a sponsored review. As with all my reviews to date, I paid for the book and read it because I chose to 🙂