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Life for Laura Warren is punctuated by the methodical: a radiographic technician, her work at a prestigious hospital on the Maine coast requires her to look at cancer every day, unearthing the answers to patients' most fearsome question and yet not being in a station to share what she knows. Keeping her thoughts to herself is something she's familiar with at home, too. Her husband, Dan, has become increasingly embittered by the loss of his job, effectively driving a wedge further into their already fractured relationship. The bright lights in Laura's life, her children, are living full lives of their own - creative, talented Ben away at college and savvy Sally in her final year of high school. Laura never really entertains escape, but when she finds herself at a weekend conference in Boston her world is turned upside down when she chances into conversation with another guest at the hotel. Richard has all the looks of a stuffy insurance salesman in his fifties, but no sooner have they engaged in a passing conversation when they realize they've both stumbled upon something profound, maybe even life-changing.
Douglas Kennedy's eleventh novel, Five Days, is a luxurious work that spins several unpleasant topics into a rich literary experience. It's a love story that explores both the rampant ecstasy and wrenching sadness with a scope so broad it will leave the reader rather breathless. As the title suggests, the story is divided into five days amid Laura's life, documenting the unhappiness of her every day, the tentative thrill of discovering something new, and the frightening elation at the prospect of changing her life for the better. Perhaps what I connected most with in the book was the difficulty - and triumph - in Laura's plight to recreate her life; Kennedy focuses the novel on her first-person narration, which allows the reader to become fully acquainted with this remarkable character. Initially, I felt that I couldn't quite relate with Laura, that her tone was rather depressing, but the beauty of Kennedy's work is in the power he maintains over his own writing. His timing is excellent. As Laura frees herself from the confines of her depressing life and embarks on a life-changing relationship with another man, she allows herself to open up to the reader, to drop her guard. But it was after what happened later - when changes she had never expected began to take shape - that I found her at her most empowering.
Kennedy's use of language is superb, and his detailing creates a beautiful, almost dreamlike literary world that's tinged ever slightly with melancholy. Richard and Laura are both pragmatic and romantic, two fascinatingly smart, well-read, engaged people. Their connect is so that Kennedy manages to set them more or less above every other character in the book - which, as they together share in their delight of obscure artistic references and an all-too-encompassing interest in synonyms - could make the reader feel either connected or slightly detached. Their intellect being the chief source of their chemistry, I found it fascinating to follow along and see the sparks ignite on the page. Overall, I found Five Days to be a thought-provoking look at the power of love to build up, destroy, and change our lives as we know it, and how we as humans deal with the magnitude of it.
(Review � Casee Marie, originally published on April 30, 2013 at LiteraryInklings.com. I received a copy of the book for the purpose of review.)