“Sometimes our office is like high school. Cliquey and ruled by popularity, people
getting teased for what they wear and what they say. All these judgments passed
based on what someone likes, and the only form of humour is the toilet kind. You
know what I mean?”
“Max used to say, pay attention at school because everything you’ll ever need to
know about life you’ll learn during recess.”
If thirty is the new twenty then Joe The Plumber is coming to terms with his quarter-life crisis as he contemplates a life unfulfilled, unpleasant existence of being on life’s treadmill, the naivety, the self-centered nature of life, and finally the enlightened relief of death. If this is what becoming an adult entails why would anyone want to grow up?
Stereotypes, profiling, branding, marketing, labeling, prejudices, passing judgments; we have all done it, you may not know it, but one way or another you know you have. For the most part we are probably wrong, but what if we were right. Would spontaneity go out the window? Would we need a social life? What we learn from the book is not to make assumptions, because the human brain likes to turn assumptions into facts, but as long as we have physical, emotional, idealistic, and religious differences we will always have preconceived notions and believe that one way is better than the other.
This whole story centres around a twenty-something named Jonah “Joe” Solitus who is from New Hampshire, went to school in Sydney, Australia, and now has an internship from a pharmaceutical company named Denoris in Montreal. He is a young man who seems to be sure of every one else in his life but seems conflicted with his own identity and life’s path. He is starting to hate every aspect of his sales job, Montreal is starting to frustrate him, and the techno-reliance of people around him is driving him crazy. It all starts turning for the better once he meets Anita Rudolph. They first met in Boston, but later rekindled their relationship at a pharmaceutical convention, Anita works for a competing business Natrofield. His dad Max holds a strong emotional grip on Joe, but unfortunately he has passed on to the other side but not without leaving a lasting presence from beyond the grave. He searches for advice from his dad, and being told of his resemblance of his late father and being a “father’s son” at heart there is only one logical conclusion, internal discussion, or one illogical conclusion…an inter-mammalian heart-to-heart with his cat Popov.
Joe is on his way back home for his mom Tessa’s marriage to Len after being away for three years. With a typical suburban home, with typical suburban problems Joe has trouble forgetting about past events and wallows in self-pity while running away as soon as their is an escape hatch ready. While back home he constantly deals with the absence of his father, the disappointment of failing his responsibilities as an older brother and the inevitable reality of change. With his penchant for running, Joe is like a rolling stone with no feeling of home, and with my own interpretation, no inclination to find one.
“The technology created apathy and selfishness. Everyone tuning out and not willing
to accommodate each other. The world suddenly full of line jumpers, people who
talk with their heads down, people filming and photographing and commenting on
everything and posting it online. People who expect to get everything now and aren’t
prepared to wait. I really hated the world and all the people in it.”
Modern technology is also a main thematic cog throughout the story. It really is quite telling how prevalent the use of gadgets is in today’s society and how it has changed our way of life, and not always in a positive light. From get-well wishes for a recent heart attack victim that manifest into people getting on their soapbox for their own agenda, to waking up with one hand on your phone the other on your laptop, to the negation of career opportunities because of modern day quasi-professionals. Here is an example of how Joe is slowly boiling over when it comes to the inundation of technology; at a time when he need’s to find an important corporate email, he log’s in with his username and password to see that he has 253 new messages and at that precise moment when his hands are on his head in frustration his phone rings. Lucky for Joe, with all of this techno-hullabaloo he does have the serenity of swimming which happens to be Joe’s solace, his time to focus on one thing and forget about all of life’s other meaningless distractions. The message of this story is “simplicity is the answer to everything” well in a life made more difficult day-after-day it makes you long for the days when the vast amount of opportunities was not so high and the choices were made for you? I will leave that for your own thoughts.
I held off reading this book for a long time because I was certain that I would have breezed right through it in pure indulgence and enjoyment. In the superficial sense with the help of the blurb on the back I really wanted to like this book. It related to me on many different levels from life ideals, family relations, social predicaments, and the fact that there was a character sharing the same name as myself which is a rare occurrence for me. Unfortunately, this book was at times painstakingly slow, monotonous, and predictable. The characters all seemed to have the same voice with varying degrees of differentiation. The only main characters that stood out in terms of personality were Gordie and Iris. I know the whole like-minded tend to gravitate towards each other saying, especially when you are as socially predisposed and blanketed as Joe but I would have liked to see more personality.
There are a lot of great messages for the people of the digital age and I would recommend this book to anyone feeling swallowed by technology and is looking for an outlet that doesn’t have a USB on the other end. Just remember that the universe is working for you, not against you. And whether you believe in fate, technologies, karma, or luck, everything is relative you just have to be willing to accept the inter-connection of all things in the universe.
“You know, mate, sometimes I think that all the great stuff’s already been invented,
all the great things done. And all we’re doing is rehashing everything, churning
out all this crap we don’t need and making stuff that’s nowhere near as good as
the original. Where are the ideas, the innovations, the world-changing inventions?
We can’t come up with anything original, we just copy and paste.”