Saturday, September 20, 2014

Wake Up Happy Every Day by Stephen May

Today I am reviewing Wake Up Happy Every Day, a new book by Stephen May to be released this December.  I received a digital advance reading copy of the book via NetGalley for review, and I can thoroughly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good comic novel.

This highly entertaining and fast-paced novel is the story of Nicky and Sarah Fisher, a British couple who are in San Francisco celebrating the fiftieth birthday of their billionaire friend Russell Knox.  Things get rolling when Russell suddenly drops dead for no apparent reason in one of the several bathrooms of his palatial mansion.  Nicky quickly gets the idea to impersonate his friend Russell and pass off the dead body in the bathroom as his own.  Sarah readily agrees with Nicky's plan, especially since they will then have access to more money than either of them has ever dreamed of in their entire lives.  This windfall comes in especially handy since their daughter Scarlett has cerebral palsy and requires extra care.  And the story takes off from there.

To be more convincing as his friend Russell, Nicky undergoes various agonies of gym, diet, and hair replacement to change his appearance.  Meanwhile, an assassin named Catherine begins to doubt her skills -- she just knew she had taken out Russell as she was directed to, but she apparently knocked off his idiot British friend by accident.  Now she is determined not to fail a second time.

Another thread of the story is found in the machinations of Mary, Scarlett's babysitter, who cooks up a plan to bilk the Fishers out of some of their new-found money.  She just happens to be in cahoots with her boyfriend Jesus who comes into the story as the Fishers' limo driver.

Along the way the stories of other characters are woven into the narrative, creating an ever more complex storyline that pushes the reader along to see what is going to happen next and how all of this will end.  Russell's estranged daughter Lorna lives in San Francisco as well, and complicates matters when she tries to pay a visit to her dad (now being played by Nicky).  Nicky's dad Daniel, nearing the end of his life and suffering from a degenerative brain disease, is spending the last years of his life in a retirement home.  He begins to think that he should be seizing the day and living more purposefully, spurred on by the untimely death of his son.  Part of the way he decides to live more is to buy a new sportscar, which leads to some interesting situations.  Daniel is tended by a young woman named Polly who, among other things, spends a fair amount of time thinking about who would be the best sperm donor for the baby she wants to have.

Occasionally the events of the novel and the interactions between the characters border on the improbable and absurd, but the author does a good job of putting everything in context and never letting the story veer off into the ridiculous.  This is a well-written novel that is humorous and entertaining without being tedious.  Highly recommended!

Disclaimer: I received a complementary digital copy of this book from the book's publisher via NetGalley for review purposes.  I did not receive any monetary compensation in return for the review, and I was not required to review the book.  All opinions expressed here are my own.

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