Next / James Hynes

In this book’s opening pages, Kevin Quinn is on a plane descending into Austin for a job interview.  He is flying from Ann Arbor, a city where he has lived all his life, and he has a return ticket for later that day.  A middle-aged  man, he is worried that his current job might be on the chopping block.  While he has never married, he does have a much younger girlfriend.  Even though they have been together a good many years, he has never fully committed to the relationship.  To complicate matters, he has reason to believe she might be trying to get pregnant without telling him she is doing so.  His third preoccupation centers on recent terrorist attacks that have been dominating the news.  On the flight he is strongly attracted to a beautiful younger woman who is sitting next to him.  This leads him into following her after they touch down, and this sets him off on a quixotic journey through the city.  The story focuses solely on Kevin’s thoughts and interactions during his one-day visit to Austin.  But it is a tale of two cities, as Ann Arbor is never far from his thoughts.  Thanks to Hynes’ fabulous stream-of-consciousness writing, Kevin’s memories, regrets, mistakes, and anxieties are presented for close inspection.  Clearly, they show a man experiencing a mid-life crisis.  While it is a story where very little seems to be happening, his entire life is expertly pieced together on the page.  When the action finally does pick up in the final fifty pages, the reader has come to care deeply about Kevin and the unfolding situation he finds himself caught up in.  The ending is sure to be seared into the reader’s memory.  This tragicomedy is a compulsive read, and Kevin is a person most will be glad to get know during his stay in Austin.

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