I am re-reading “Next” by James Hynes. This novel is worth every second of the time spent to read it, and then some. On the surface, it’s a story about a man named Kevin, a middle-aged editor living in Ann Arbor, Michigan, who has flown to Austin, Texas without telling his live-in girlfriend about his one day trip for a job interview. Yes, Kevin, in middle-age, may yet change the direction of his life.
The story starts out simply enough as you traverse the inner canyons of Kevin’s mind: his thoughts, ruminations, regrets and memories of his life over the years. He has a few hours to kill while waiting for the interview, and in a moment of hormone-driven impulsivity, decides to follow through the streets of Austin, a young woman who had been sitting next to him on the plane. It’s benign enough, except that during this travelogue through Austin’s streets, Kevin’s life story (and all his foibles) emerge in this interior novel, and some strange (and revealing) things happen.
I never throw spoilers into the mix but let me say Kevin’s few hours in Austin turn into quite an adventure with the book’s climax coming out of nowhere like a freight train on steroids.
This is a wonderful read, and the reader gets not only a penetrating view of the workings of Kevin’s mind-all his mistakes and regrets, his loves and losses-but luxuriates in an hilarious dissection of the culture in which we live . A true gem of a novel. Five well-deserved stars!