*Note: I received an e-copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review*
Summary (From Goodreads):
Reality TV stardom. Garage band dreams. Through the lens of his camera, news photographer Daniel Evart sees a world in which opportunities are evident and success is clearly defined. If only life was that simple.
Set on a fictional college campus in rural northwestern Michigan, “Forever Since An Apple” tells the story of how Daniel struggles with early-adulthood confusion and learns to define his own measure of success.
Daniel is just a week away from graduating in Journalism from the Great Lakes University (GLU) located in the fictional town of Wanishing. He and his friend+roomie+GLU-ite Ebner have been working for Campus Telegram, a small-time local newspaper run by GLU folks, over the past one year. Most of their assignments are a mix of mundane and mildly interesting until the last week of semester when they get a new and exciting feature to work on – a reality show which is going to take them Chicago. What follows next is a short road trip, a week-end of observing the idiosyncrasies of a reality show up close and personal, and the aftermath.
The book is a little bit of many events, all meant to be instrumental in nudging Daniel to, in Ebner’s words- “not do nothing”. You see, he has so far been perfectly okay to just go with the flow of things, photographing events for the local newspaper, that he hasn’t really dreamt anything big or flashy or pondered over the huge “questions of life”. Ebner is the flamboyant counterpart to Daniel’s “ordinary” self – he cannot see himself stuck in the rut of wherever the natural progression of his career graph would take him. He has already planned things out to start his own designing/advertising venture after the end of next semester and has roped in Daniel to take care of the graphic designing and photography part. I must say, Ebner was probably the most fun character to read about. I guess, he was intentionally written that way – the kind of guy who can command attention and make any event all about him.
So coming back to all the little events and characters in the book, there is Darren, another GLU guy who is participating in the reality show, and the reason Daniel and Ebner were sent to Chicago to cover the show. There is Sidney, who is Daniel’s best friend in class and whom he somewhat harbours feelings for. There is Jim, a parks and rec director, who is married with two kids and another one on the way. To Daniel, his is an almost picture-perfect life, filled with love, laughter and companionship. There is Peter Spellman, an aged editor and Daniel’s boss at the Mirror, where he takes up a job after college.
It is funny, but what I have seen or observed is that most of the time no amount of pushing or goading really works when you want someone to pursue something, it can be something as simple as a hobby or as huge as changing your professional path. Sometimes, it is just a series of events that fall into place (the whole “right place at the right time” phrase) or sometimes it is just that one fleeting moment when you feel like someone has smacked you hard right across the face to see what was always in front you and wake up. The same thing happens with Daniel, and ironically what shows him the mirror (literally) is photography. I really liked that moment.
(Although, if I may add, that there is nothing wrong with following the “mundane” .. I mean, not everyone needs to have that one awakening to go “OMG, This is my passion.. let me leave everything else and follow this and make up for lost years!!!” … Like seriously, if you are just happy with the “ordinariness” of life, then just let it be… I guess that was what Jim represented.)
I think what sort of bugged me is that some story and character arcs just felt unfinished and half-baked. Like, I never really understood what the whole Sidney-Daniel deal was. I think she was supposed to be like some sort of talking conscience for Daniel to have a conversation with, but her function in the storyline was as vague as her ad-hoc poetry. And then there was this whole reality-show plot which is supposed to be the running background on which this novel is constructed. Again, I never understood what the takeaway was from the whole experience of being privy to insider info. Disillusionment? Bewilderment? Envy?
I guess what didn’t sit well with me is how things were left open to interpretation. I would have liked some sort of definite answers. And now that I look back, I don’t think the reality show played much of a part in enabling Daniel to make decisions, let alone being a tipping point. So while some things didn’t work for me, I will say that it was a pretty breezy read. And if you like stories which give you a part road-trip and part slice-of-life and coming-of-age feel, made of everyday characters and occurrences, this book is probably right up your alley.