The Exit Man by Greg Levin
3 stars - Recommended by Kate to readers familiar with the genre
Publisher: White Rock Press
Released: May 2014
Released: May 2014
Guest review by Kate Vane
The Exit Man has a great premise. Eli, a man who is drifting through life, finds meaning after he takes over his late father’s party supplies store. He learns that his father and a friend, while both terminally ill, had hatched a painless and undetectable way to die. Eli’s father inadvertently spoilt the party by dying naturally. The friend requests Eli’s help to complete the deal.
Eli after some reflection, agrees to do what he asks. In so doing he turns his life around. He is inspired to continue his work as an exit man while still maintaining his upbeat, balloon-selling persona by day. Then he finds himself saving, rather than ending, a life and this throws up a whole new set of challenges.
The author is unflinching and compassionate in his descriptions of the terminally ill people Eli encounters. Some have humour and courage, while others are deeply unlikeable. They are all real and convincing.
However a couple of things don’t quite work for me. The first is Eli’s voice. He has some good lines, but he also explains everything to death. There’s a long, slow set-up showing how he came to do his first exit. Then we get the act itself. Then we get an explanation of how he felt about the whole thing. Then a recap of where he is in his life. This pattern repeats throughout the book. For a story like this to work, it has to have pace and momentum but, like a balloon, the author keeps blowing it up and then letting it deflate.
I also felt that the story, having promised big issues, shied away from them. The dilemmas which Eli faces are a little too neatly resolved. There are some plot twists but they don’t really relate to his own behaviour and its consequences.
It’s one thing to be in favour of euthanasia in principle, but how would you feel if you were actually there, doing it? For a stranger? Eli never struggles with a difficult case, one that makes him question what he’s doing, or his own motivation, or puts him in serious danger. Higher stakes for Eli would also make for more tension and energy in the narrative.
I would have liked to be more challenged by the issues and for this to be a shorter, sharper read. Trust the reader – we can deal with it.
Kate Vane writes crime and literary fiction. Her latest novel is Not the End. She lives on the Devon coast in the UK.