Touchstone (first published in 2013)
Most of us never really know the details of the advertising world and what it involve, in its entirety. That's me. When I picked up this piece of fiction, I was quite interested in seeing whether there was some details I could pick up on about the advertising world. There is plenty, in fact. But what's more absorbing about this novel is its integrative essense of the advertising world and the people behind it.
"Finbar Dolan is lost and lonely. Except he doesn't know it. Despite escaping his blue-collar Boston upbringing to carve out a midly successful career at a Madison Avenue ad agency, he's a bit of a mess and closing in on 40. He's recently called off a wedding. Now, a few days before Christmas, he's forced to cancel a long-postponed vacation in order to write, produce, and edit a Super Bowl commercial for his diaper account in record time.
Fortunately, it gets worse. He learns that his long-estranged and once-abusive father has fallen ill. And that neither of his brothers or his sister intend to visit. It's a wake-up call for Fin to reevaluate the choices he's made, admit that he's falling for his co-worker Phoebe, question the importance of diapers in his life, and finally tell the truth about his life and his past."
After reading this description I knew I was in for a unique novel. The real quarkiness of this book is the fact that it reads like a nonfiction book, yet it is fiction. Multiple times I felt I was reading about a real person's life, bit by bit unfolding in a sort of a biography.
"There are people who believe that life can be lived rationally, that we are in control of our deepest, most powerful emotions, that we can perhaps even escape the deep markers from the early days, the crucial days, where we learn it all. Those people are called crazy." This is a huge theme in this book by John Kenney. The whole story stands to prove this point, that most if not all, life is to some extent beyond our controls. At certain moments in life we just have to realize that life is beyond what we do about it... except live it to the best of our ability.
Another element of the book is searching for experiences that define us. In the book the following quote says it all. "There are times in my life when I look for experiences I can be proud of, things that might define me: the winning goal senior year, the acceptance letter from Harvard, the big account win, the wedding, the house, the first-born, the good father, the good husband, the good brother, jumping onto the tracks to rescue the fainting victim as the Subway pulls in. The stories of a life well lived. Little monuments we all need to sustain us during those long stretches where nothing quite so memorable occurs, when life simply passes by." I found it refreshing to see the purity, honesty, and genuine sincerity that came along with this book.
I recommend this book to people who are curious about the advertising world, who want to see a perspective we don't always touch on - the midlife crisis of a man in his 40's, and who basicly want to see that they're not alone in having chosen a career they didn't see themselves in to begin with but nevertheless have made it worthwhile.