A Rock and a High Place by Dan Mooney
|A Rock and a High Place by Dan Mooney|
|Category: General Fiction|
|Reviewer: Alex Merrick|
|Summary: Dan Mooney writes with confidence and humour about an often maligned subject. He writes about the consequences of ignoring our elderly population with pitch black wit and a lot of heart.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 288||Date: April 2018|
|Publisher: Legend Press|
A Rock and a High Place is a melancholic story of how our aging population feels lost in our ever evolving world. The novel begins with our widowed hero Joel bored and depressed with his lot, in both life and his nursing home. To bring agency into his life, he decides to kill himself. He shares his plans with the newest resident, a retired flamboyant soap actor called Frank, and the two of them embark on a mission to find the perfect suicide. Along the way, they discover the strength within themselves and the strength of friendship.
Dan Mooney has crafted a brilliant English comedy here. It is that perfect blend of pitch black sardonic humour that is never in your face, something the Brits do so well. The opening line, Miller, Joel whispered across the space between their two beds. Why aren't you dead yet? This sets the jet black tone, following in the vein of Martin Amis and his father, Kingsley. The humour is used to brilliant effect to accentuate the tragedy lying beneath. Writers have been using this literary effect with great success from Joseph Heller to Hunter S. Thompson and Dan Mooney can be added to this list. This novel, although it is a gentle tale of friendship between two old men, highlights a subject that society doesn't address.
Our society views human beings as either useful or not and, once we have outlived our usefulness, we become a burden, something to hide away and forget and we do forget all too often. The elderly are left to stagnate, their minds fading away from boredom and repetition. Mooney illustrates this impressively as we witness how mind-numbing Joel's days are. He has nothing to live for, he goes into the garden for a walk just to change his surroundings and he watches game shows for two hours because there is nothing else to do. Age UK's research states that 63% of adults aged 52 or over, who have been widowed, report feeling lonely. Mooney illustrates wonderfully how one can feel isolated when surrounded by people. As Roxy Music stated 'loneliness is a crowded room'.
Mooney allows all his characters to become their own people, even the minor characters have moments to shine and become fully realised. Joel's daughter and his grandchildren are such characters, they begin one dimensionally as we view them through Joel's cynical and depressed worldview, but as the novel unfolds, we are shown more of these characters and our opinion changes. It is easy to agree with Joel that the grandchildren view seeing their grandad as a chore, a reflection on our own views on looking after our elderly, we do it because we feel guilty if we don't.
Mooney impresses upon us that the older generation are still living, just because they are closer to death does not mean they are waiting for it with a resigned heart. With the character of Frank, Mooney makes a case for this. With a joie de vivre about life, Frank loves and attacks each day with that attitude. He is the most isolated out of everyone, with no family nor friends who visit him. Age UK have research that indicates loneliness and social isolation are harmful to health and comparable to smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Yet Frank persists. If Joel is the reflection of our society's cynical world view then Frank is the agent of change. Mooney presents the Hilltop, the care home where Joel lives, in a similar way to how he presents his characters. It comes to life the more we learn about its staff and the reader becomes more sympathetic. We are coloured by Joel's opinions and his state of mind. However, we gradually realise through deft character moments and descriptive language that they are merely doing their jobs and have the residents' best interests at heart.
The story is, admittedly, predictable. However, that is not the point. In this reviewer's opinion, the plot was a clever and brilliantly melancholic ruse to illustrate a brutal message. We are forgetting our elderly. They have lost their voice and feel marginalised. It is no wonder they voted resoundingly to leave the EU, they want to regain their youth. They want to return to a time when they mattered, where people listened to them. Mooney's novel is a brilliant rallying cry to society filled with wonderful characters and a brilliant British humour. We cannot deny our elderly population intrinsic worth. We need to show them that they still matter and still have lives worth living. How we treat our elders today is how we might expect to be treated by our children tomorrow.
You can read more book reviews or buy A Rock and a High Place by Dan Mooney at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy A Rock and a High Place by Dan Mooney at Amazon.com.
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