Thursday, April 9, 2015
Book Review: All This Life
4 Stars - Highly Recommended, I mean, c'mon, it's a Mohr!
Publisher: Soft Skull Press
Releasing: July 2015
If you're reading this review, you are most likely either hanging out on my blog right now or viewing it on Goodreads. And you probably discovered that I had written the review because you saw it in your feed burner, followed the link from our Facebook post, clicked on the link when I tweeted about it, or saw it in your Goodreads updates.
God bless social media, huh? It's insanely immediate, connecting complete strangers at the click of the mouse to news, videos, rants, raves, and yeah, even book reviews like this one. It helps us feel like we are a part of something bigger. We can sample and download the latest music. We can stream the biggest blockbusters. We can post videos of cute cuddly kittens and people falling flat on their faces. We can tag friends in our photos. We can contact authors and publishers and request review copies. We can comment on everything, everywhere, at any time. We can cyber bully. We can subtweet. We can stalk. We can lurk. We can embarrass and astonish. With social media, we can be whoever we want to be. We can become an overnight success or the brunt of one of the biggest online bash sessions.
And in Joshua Mohr's All The Life, we experience just how quickly social media can connect us while it simultaneously tears us apart.
It starts out with a morning like any other for Paul and his son Jake, crawling through the morning commute traffic on the San Francisco Bridge - Paul lost in his own thoughts and Jake randomly recording strangers outside his car window. Until he spots the marching band, catching their tragic statement on tape and uploading it to YouTube -an experience that creates a nasty chain of events that will change his life, and the lives of so many others, forever.
Jake sits back and let's the video do its thing, reaching tens of thousands and ultimately millions, as the social media and news outlets latch on to it, sky rocketing him into near celebrity status. Paul grows concerned and then desperate as Jake withdraws further from him, while Jake struggles with his new found fame, still trying to digest what he witnessed that day on the bridge, and misjudges the lengths his followers will go for him.
In Arizona, Sara's watching Jake's video of the marching band when she discovers through a series of texts that her (ex)boyfriend has just posted one of their sex tapes online. Within days, the tape goes viral. Distraught at how her small town will react, Sara confides in her neighbor, and long ago crush, Rodney, who suffers from a debilitating speech impediment caused by a freak accident back when they were just kids. Born partly from her desperation to escape the wrath of her over protective brother, Sara and Rodney make plans to head to California to find Rodney's mother, who abandoned him when the stress of his accident became too much for her to bear.
As all of this is happening, Noah, brother of the one of marching band members, attempts to come to terms with what his sister has done and views Jake's video. Stuck in a cycle of self blame and near denial, Noah embarks on a mission to say goodbye to Tracey in the very place the video was recorded.
In his most character-heavy novel to date, Mohr masterfully moves this group of lonely, lost souls together, as they each struggle to come to terms with the things they've lost. Sara, who grieves the loss of her privacy; Rodney, the loss of his former self; Jake, the loss of his innocence; Paul, the lack of a relationship with his son; Noah, blaming himself for the loss of his sister; and Kathleen, her choice to abandon Rodney when he needed her most.
All This Life shines a spotlight on social media's ugly side. It's a stark reminder of how quickly we can lose control of the things that define us, the things we hold most private, and warns us to be wary of what we share. How the smallest ripple can cause the greatest waves. And how life can quickly spiral out of our grasp and become larger than we ever imagined. In a way, I feel Mohr's novel challenges us to appreciate the life we have, to live it for what's it worth, aware of the scrapes and scars we might endure but not to become crippled by them, not allowing ourselves to get bogged down with the things we can't control.
Worth a read if you're a social media addict like me!