“I want to kill myself,” he said. It was a perfectly profound and deeply unsettling moment for them both. Joel had finally vocalised it, and in doing so confirmed to himself that he really wanted it. It wasn’t an idle thought dredged up by the death of Mr. Miller and the continued mourning for his wife, but a concrete and real desire. He no longer wished to be alive. He wanted out.”
Author: Dan Mooney Published: 2018 Pages: 328
The Great Unexpected is a novel which centres on Joel Monroe, an old man whose wife died three years ago, and who since her death, has begrudged every waking moment he has to spend in Hilltop, a care home. When his roommate dies, it hits Joel hard, having already endured the death of his wife, he now has to go through the grief all over again. And just to make it all the more worse when his new roommate, ex soap-star Frank Adams, (stage name Frank de Selby), moves in, Joel could not think of a more obnoxious person to have to share a room with. It is then Joel decides there’s only one option: he must kill himself. After Joel tells Frank that this is his plan, the two men begin planning the most suitable and dignified way to carry out the act. But along the way, Joel discovers that despite Frank’s seemingly pretentious exterior, there is a more fragile man underneath it all, one who has been through hell, and one who may just convince Joel that there are still reasons to love life.
Frank was undoubtedly my favourite character; he was funny and endearing, but I think most importantly, he was a nice contrast to Joel. Not just in the sense that their personalities were different, but also because Frank was living proof that despite having a tough and painful life, and being disregarded by his entire family, he can still find the beauty in things. While Frank may also have benefitted from dropping his de Selby facade every now and then, he was strong in a way that Joel admired, and that was really lovely to see. The men were kind of like yin and yang, they complimented each other nicely, and throughout the book, each learnt important truths about themselves through each other.
When tackling such a sensitive topic, I think Mooney took the right approach, in that rather than sugar-coating and bubble-wrapping everything, he had Joel just say it how it is. Being an old man, he was stereotypical in his candour and because of this, the reader was able to see exactly the thoughts he was having.
I have only given this book 4 stars, and to be honest, there’s not actually anything wrong with it, it just wasn’t my 5 star book; I am, however, very sure it will be someone else’s.
I think Mooney’s greatest triumph with this book was displaying the human condition in such a refreshing, raw, and humorous way. He proves that there is always something worth living for, even when it feels like there isn’t, and his beautiful portrayal of one man’s mental health struggle was honest, raw, and most of all important.
Thank you to Legend Press for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.