I wasn’t going to read Beat the Reaper by Josh Bazell, despite the fact that everyone seemed to love it, and it almost seemed right up my alley. But then I found out that Josh was coming to my local independent bookstore, and since my friend Jessica really liked the book, I thought I’d read it and we could go see him together! And talk about his book! And generally be book nerds!
So the book opens with a scene that let’s you know Dr. Peter Brown is a bad ass. And then you find out that he IS a bad ass because he worked for the mafia killing people, back before he was saving lives. Before he was in the Witness Protection Program, he was Pietro Brnwa, who basically just wanted a family and got involved with the WRONG FAMILY (you know the family I’m talking about…the MAFIA FAMILY).
Beat the Reaper goes back and forth between present day and history, getting you up to speed as to why Peter is on the lam, how he ended up being a hit man, why he’s a doctor now and why it’s so terrible if his cover gets blown.
The first thing you’ll notice when you read the book is that there’s footnotes. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I love footnotes. I get giddy when I see them. But you only ever see them on something serious, so you see them in your fiction book and wonder if you should also check in the back for a bibliography (as if anyone remembers how to do those). Fear not! These footnotes are like the funny asides your hilarious friend mentions when he’s telling a story. Par example:
(In the main text, he says, “Elisabeth Kübler-Ross at one point said that our comprehension of death passes through five distinct stages — denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.” Now to the footnote.)
I say “at one point” because this progression is what we think about when we think about Kübler-Ross. But what we avoid thinking about when we think about Kübler-Ross is how she later changed her mind and decided we’ll all be reincarnated. I wish I was shitting you.*
That reminds me: if you’re offended by curse words or graphic violence, this book isn’t for you. But dang if this isn’t one of the more refreshing books I’ve read in a long time. I don’t even know if I could classify this book. It’s not a mystery, not really. It’s just…a really great story.
Josh Bazell’s writing style is so conversational that I could have been sitting down chatting with a friend (we all know how much I love that). AND, the narrator is smart! With quirky little asides that just make you go, Huh! Interesting! Yes, these are the same asides as the footnotes, but really, the greatness beared repeating.
And you know what? I’m really glad I read this book. Because dang if the first question out of my mouth isn’t going to be, “How the #%$@ did you think up (this one scene that if I told you would spoil the book)?!” (Side note: I didn’t end up getting to see the author. Something came up, and dang if my life did not get the message that I have IMPORTANT AUTHOR APPEARANCES TO ATTEND.)
Rating: 89 out of 100 (I feel the need to point out here that anywhere in the 80s is 4 stars. So while it fell short of me wanting to have its babies, it didn’t fall short of me having a frolicking good time.)
*Re-reading this, I see that perchance I didn’t pick the most stellar footnote, but I promise you, this footnote slayed me when I read it.
Book source: I got this book from the library.
And one more thing? If you click on one of the Beat the Reaper links and buy something from Amazon, I’ll make a commission! Mwahahahaha!! Maybe with the pennies I make I’ll be able to call someone who cares.
You can thank the FTC for this disclosure!