Faith Can Move Mountains... But Dynamite Works Better

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Four Characters And A Bad Day



“You know, it would be nice if just one thing today would go right for me.”

That may be a tall order, given the events that play out in Bad Day, the novel by author Devon Cooper. Everything that can go wrong does go wrong for the characters in the book, which is set primarily in real time, on a single day, in and around an office building. It’s a book that I thoroughly enjoyed.
The story begins with an unnamed man (in third person, the exception in what’s mostly a first person perspective book) taking an item back inside the night before, a set-up for what’s to come. This is a wise choice to give the character anonymity early on in the action, particularly for the events of the novel.
The day’s action starts by introducing us one by one to the four main characters. Angie is an office worker eager for a promotion, preparing a presentation she hopes will get her on her way. Her day starts off badly right off the start, from sleeping in, seemingly running in circles getting dressed, commute troubles, and ultimately spilling her coffee onto her blouse.
Frank and Sam come next, two construction workers who are busy finishing up work high up in the same building where Angie is working. Frank is single, soft spoken, and we quickly pick up on the fact that he’s a man with anxieties that he tries to keep under control. Sam is older, happily married to Joanne, his high school sweetheart. Sam and Joanne have a good life together, a home and children, and Frank can’t help but be a bit envious. Their day doesn’t get off to quite the right start either; we find that their arrival is at the same time as Angie, who is in the midst of her day from hell. Their work at the top of the building goes awry when Frank has to head back to the garage for something he forgot. This is a problem for Frank, who has problems with heights, and deep-seated fears about closed spaces.
Joanne, the last of the four major characters to be introduced, is a teacher, and we first meet her ourselves after things start going wrong. We know enough about her from the earlier sequences that we already have a good sense of who she is, and as events unfold and she becomes increasingly worried about her husband, we feel sympathy with her.
Frank and Angie end up in the same elevator by chance, and with that, the day from hell really gets underway. The elevator comes to a screeching halt, setting off Frank’s fears and providing a breaking point for Angie’s building frustration. On top of this, a bomb threat is called into the building, prompting an evacuation and the summoning of the police. Frank and Angie, having no idea what’s happening, are trapped, and initially are very much at odds. Frank is frozen by his own fear, while Angie is less then sympathetic towards him, agitated by what she believes is the end of her professional aspirations.
Sam, whose age is starting to catch up with him as old injuries from his days playing football manifest themselves, must make his own lonely descent to ground level by the stairs, worrying that he’ll never see his wife again. And Joanne, upon learning what’s happening, makes her way to the building, frightened at the possibility that her husband’s life is at risk.
The novel succeeds due to a number of critical factors. First and foremost is the characterization. Cooper writes these people with a well-rounded humanity, and gives them depth. Both in the narrative of the one day (and the flashbacks to the past, the only other exception to the single day rule, which really flesh out the character’s histories), she gives us personalities who are flawed yet likeable, well drawn out, with the sort of attention to detail that results in each of them having their own distinct voices. The long relationship and deep bond between Sam and Joanne, whose love is deep seated, contrasts well with Frank and Angie, who start out in this very conflicted place and yet who quickly find an unusual chemistry. The good characterization extends from the major characters even to the minor ones- I particularly liked the way a group of bomb squad police officers were being written.
Another factor that I enjoyed was the pacing of the story, and how that reflected itself in the style of the writing. The narrative flows well, doesn’t seem to drag, which is a very good thing. And writing in the first person suits this author and the story well. Much of the book is written in multiple first person point of view, and there’s never a problem keeping track of whose point of view we’re seeing things.
Something else that I really enjoyed about the book is its sense of humour. Even with the dangerous situation these characters find themselves in, there are those moments of lightness to the book. From the small details like a security guard playing solitaire rather than paying attention to his work (hey, it’s a boring job!) to the black humour Angie really brings across at times, the author succeeds at defusing tension at the most appropriate moments. Cooper doesn’t take things too seriously, which is a very good thing.
At its heart, Bad Day is a character study, which allows for depth and sympathy in its characters. It tells a story of how anything that can go wrong in a given day does go wrong, and then how life goes in an entirely unexpected direction from there. I enjoyed it a lot. You will too.



Bad Day is now available in ebook format, with the paperback soon to follow. You can find it at Amazon.com, here at Devon's Amazon page.

11 comments:

  1. Sounds like a wonderful book and I hope to get around to reading it. I've definitely had those days but since I've left the newspaper biz there are a lot less bad days.

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  2. Great review, William!

    I think we've all had THOSE kind of days...

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  3. Between you and Normas reviews and interviews, this book sounds like something I would like to read
    But the one thing no one has mentioned, maybe I missed it, is why e-book first and at a later date the paperback ? I don't have an ebook and will probably never have one. I can't stand how they feel in my hands.
    Is it easier to publish on ebook first ?
    Nice review.

    cheers, parsnip

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  4. Parsnip--99% of our sales are in ebooks. That's why they're made available first--that, and it takes longer to format a print book and make it available.

    William, as always, you've aced the review. Good job!

    But then, look what you had to work with. It's a great book!

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  5. I know my initial release will be in the ebook format, with the paperback to follow as well.

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  6. I love the premise of this book!

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  7. Thank you! I have just added a Four Characters And A Bad Day to my summer reading list. :)

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  8. Great review, William! I look forward to reading this soon. Sounds very interesting!

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  9. I'm glad to have pointed you all in this direction!

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  10. I'll have to check it out. Thanks!

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