15.08.2018 / Legend Press / Contemporary-Drama / Paperback / 288pp / 978-1787198852
Target Audience: Readers looking for a change of pace and a heartwarming read that challenges common perceptions.
About The Great Unexpected
“If you’re going to end it, you better make it big. No slipping off bridges, it’s undignified for men of our vintage. Go big or don’t bother.”
Joel lives in a nursing home and he’s not one bit happy about it. He doesn’t like being told when to eat, when to sleep, when to take his pills. In fact, he doesn’t like living at all, and he’s decided he’s going to end his life on his terms.
When he tells retired soap-actor Frank about his dark plan, Frank urges him to go out with a bang. Together, they embark on a mission to find the perfect suicide, and along the way, discover the strength of friendship when you really feel alone.
Dan Mooney’s novel The Great Unexpected is an insightful, emotional, rebellious and bittersweet jaunt into the mind of a aged man who wants to regain control of his life by choosing his death. Joel is lonely; lost without his wife and soul mate Lucey. Every day since her death, the Hill Top Nursing Home has become more and more like a prison filled with condescension and impatience, like they are just waiting for him to die. Joel’s attitude and anger keeps everyone, including his daughter and grandchildren, at arms length. When Joel’s long term roommate passes in his sleep, yet another person to leave him behind, Joel decides that the only way to take back any control in his life is to decide how it will end, before Death does that for him too.
The greatly unexpected arrival of retired actor Frank Adams (stage name de Selby) changes the game inside the nursing home completely. An audacious, flamboyant and instantly likeable fellow, Frank is everything that Joel is not. After several clashes with each other, Frank drops his de Selby persona and lets Joel see the real Frank Adams. In this moment of honesty, Joel confides that he had decided to go out on his own terms. Frank thinks that is a fantastic idea, but encourages Joel to leave the world in a way that suits his character and makes a statement to people that old doesn’t mean checked out. Together they begin to plan the perfect suicide and in doing get themselves into a heap of trouble but also get a taste for the freedom Joel desperately needed.
Dan Mooney did a superb job with this narrative; it couldn’t have turned out better. TGU is brimming with brilliant moments. Moments of infectious laughter, of crippling sadness, of blind intensity and of heart-warming beauty. I laughed when I probably should have cried and I was amazed by how the story confidently reminded me that is never to late to mend fences. The themes in TGU are what makes it such a great read. The consequences of repressed grief, the overbearing weight of depression, homophobia, the frustration of ageing and the sacrifices we make for those we love are just some of the themes DM has managed to pack into TGU.
Each scenario Joel gets involved in is loaded with anticipation, fear of getting caught, concern that those around him are conspiring against him and the empowering feeling of liberation. I know Joel is key to the story but I, like most, did prefer Frank overall. He is a presence you can’t get enough of, I wish I had a Frank in my life, a hero to bring me out of my shell. He alone makes this novel worth anyone’s time, let alone all the other great things about TGU. DM’s writing is a perfect balance of poignant, blunt and mischievous. Encapsulating the beauty and pain of a life long marriage as well as the hard choices that come with it and haunting reality that life is there one minute and extinguished the next.
There is plenty of nuance in these pages, one minute I was crushed under the weight of Joel’s imprisonment and the next I was soaring free beside two 70 year old blokes who have done a runner, a middle finger to their prison warden. The dialogue between Joel and Frank is some of the best I have ever seen in a novel. I laughed so hard at sentences that I couldn’t have imagined I would ever see in print. Dan Mooney’s vocabulary is definitely my favourite element to his writing. DM seems to love words as much as I do and it was a pleasure to see such a great amount of colourful language.
It is not all perfect. I found DM’s prose to be repetitive and his pacing was a tad too slow. I felt TGU could have been shorter with the same impact but it was also good to have more time with the terrible twosome. The bittersweet ending broke me a little but it was also empowering at the same time. The Great Unexpected is an important novel that explores a forgotten generation who’s hearts are still in it. All the self reflection, frustration and unintentional anger that burden elderly people who have lost control and TGU serves as a reminder that they still have a lot to give. I had no idea what I was going to get from reading this novel but I am seriously glad I did because I won’t for get these two old boys any time soon. Highly recommended to all.
About Dan Mooney
Author of ME, MYSELF AND THEM (June 2017) and THE GREAT UNEXPECTED (2018)
Dan Mooney is a writer, air traffic controller and amateur filmmaker, with one of his short films broadcast on national TV. Dan is also a fan of amateur dramatics, rugby and is a friend to many cats. He wrote his first piece of fiction for a child-operated local newspaper at age ten and has been writing ever since.