I almost didn't want to finish this book, because I didn't want to let happen what I knew was going to happen -- I cared that much about Jonathon. The passages are sometimes very funny and sometimes terribly sad, and sometimes both at the same time. I breezed through this novel, but the words, images, feelings and people in it have attached themselves to my brain and they walk around with me everywhere I go. The author does an incredible job, giving us just enough glimpses and fragments of Jonathon's life, asking us to stitch those together into a deeper, richer understanding of that life, than if the author laid it all out for us. Almost reminds me of a Seurat painting. I only wish Jonathon could have read this book, because then things might have turned out differently.
I read this in a cabin overlooking the ocean in Northern California. It was very enjoyable to read and provided a sensitive insight into the thoughts of a suicidal individual in a unique manner of presentation: letters to all he knew.
There's so much pain to this story about a man who committed suicide. Told through a series of short letters he wrote (but never sent) to every member of his family, his teachers, ex-girlfriends, even the Easter Bunny, the novel tracks his whole life from tragic beginning to tragic end. In between there is humor, sadness, and a struggle to survive. I tore through this book in matter of days.
Wish it had been a little longer or had a little more depth. It was interesting to start the beginning of the book knowing the outcome and thinking of comments made from that perspective instead of finding out at the end
Michael Kimball's third book, "Dear Everybody," will kick you hard in the ass! It's about a disturbed weatherman, Jonathon Bender, age 32, who kills himself. I think the jolts in it come from the fact that you can't help but identify with his mental decline. Albert Camus, the author of "The Myth of Sisyphus," and one of Algeria's finest sons, said: "There is but one truly serious philosophical problem and that is suicide."
The literary device the author uses to tell this tragic and sometimes funny tale of Jonathon's "short life," works. It's a moving story told from a collection of diary entries; unsent letters; notes on conversations from family, friends and an his ex-wife, Sara; news reports; articles and even Jonathon's "Last Will and Testament." They were assembled by his younger brother, Robert, from whom he was estranged, after his death.
For review purposes, I'm going to focus on Jonathon's youngest years since they foretell his destiny. The signs were there early on that he was a troubled, highly sensitive child, who possessed a very lively imagination. He wrote notes, never dispatched, to his parents, "Santa Claus," the "Easter Bunny," and to the "Tooth Fairy," as well.
When the family went out on a day's outing to Lake Michigan, (they were living in Lansing, MI), Jonathon, then age five, said that when they got home, he pretended "to be asleep" in the car. He was hoping one of his parents would pick him up and "carry him into the house." That wish, like so many, didn't come true.
His mom, Alice, loved him the best she could, but the father, Thomas, didn't. His dad was a traveling salesman with a short temper who never really bonded with his oldest son. He admitted later to his youngest boy, Robert, that he didn't want to have any more kids for fear it would be "another one like your brother."
Even at the hospital after Jonathon's birth, in 1967, the father said that he didn't look like him because of the reddish color of his hair and skin. Perhaps he thought that he wasn't even his child. How could Jonathon not know, on some deep psyche level, that his own father had so roundly rejected him?
There is, too, an ugly scene when Jonathon, only six years old, got a soda out of the refrigerator and refused to close the door. His father--it was during the dogs days of summer--lost his cool, and began repeatedly hitting him. The mother had to intervene and stop him. She hinted at the fact that she, too, had been on the receiving end of her abusive husband's unholy wrath.
Eckhart Tolle in his tome, "The Power of Now," labeled these kinds of negative experiences, "an emotional pain-body," which then occupy both the "mind and body." Jonathon, sadly, had a lot of these life-sucking energies stored up in his badly scarred soul.
What does a beating from your own father, for little or no reason, have to say to a youngster of such a tender age? I think it can say this to the victim: "Betrayal!"
I can remember my father, who worked on the docks, giving me a whipping with his belt. Where do parents get these dumb ideas of discipline from? I can't recall the reasons why, but I do think back on some of them. The last time it was suppose to happen, I was about eleven. We both knew, however, that it wasn't going to be. His ass was going to be on the floor, if he took that route one more time with me. The beatings ended there!
What is fascinating about this novel is how Kimball tells Jonathon's heartbreaking narrative from many different perspectives. You read Jonathon's fanciful thoughts about what he honestly believes is going on in his life. Then, you're nonplussed to see that his school teacher, his mom, dad, brother Robert, his shrink, and others, such as his ex-wife, Sara, totally disagree with his account. Jonathon was mostly, out-of-the loop--a lost soul--on his own, solitary journey. Few, if any, were listening to and/or aware of his feelings. It was a journey of an often tortured mind, whose contacts with reality fluctuated wildly.
In some ways, Jonathon reminds me of my late brother, Charles, who slowly drank himself to death. Charles was one good looking dude, "Black Irish" he was. The women loved him, but he was always angry. I couldn't figure out why? Charles became an alcoholic and died before his 55th birthday. A high school buddy of his, later told me, Charles was the "loneliest" guy that he had ever met. He needed a heart transplant, but Charles wouldn't stop the drinking. What's another name for that?
Getting back to the novel. Jonathon is the only three-dimensional character in "Dear Everybody," and that is how it should be. It's all about him, his agonizing loneliness and his steady nose dive into a delusional abyss. Others have supporting roles in his drama. We only know them really from a distance. This includes his parents, brother Robert and the ex-wife, Sara, too. There is more than enough, however, in this novel, to feel Jonathon's rooted pain of growing up in a dysfunctional family, where many of his most intimate contacts were--imaginary!
The book has a number of themes in it, but I think it's the psychological one that dominates. As I read "Dear Everybody," I kept asking myself: "What is happening to Jonathon? Is there one incident or many that will contribute to his tragic ending? Was he predestined to exit his life with a big `F... you!,' to humanity?"
In summing up, "Dear Everybody" is first-rating story telling. Kimball's book will grip the reader at emotional levels. Even though you know up front what's coming, you will be caring about the painfully lonely Jonathon, right up to his very last breath.
Dear Everybody is the life of weatherman Jonathon who commits suicide. Starting from his death and going back, his brother Robert helps tell you Jonathon's story for himself and the readers. Robert collects various diary entries of his mother's, letters that Jonathon wrote to a wide variety of poeple, interviews with people who knew Jonathon such as his parents, and more to tell this story of a life who tried so hard...yet couldn't make it.
I'm a big fan of stories told in this type of manner, and I think it was very effective. The story allows you to see inside the mind of Jonathon and those that knew him, yet never truly gives you the reason behind his death for when it comes to suicide, it's hard to ever get the real answer. Dear Everybody is a quick read, yet very interesting and true to life. This book tells the tale of infidelity, mental illness, and the fact that life is often hard to manage.
Enjoyable. It made me think, and sort of ping-pongs your mind and your emotions as you are taken backwards and forwards through the main character's life in hindsight. Michael Kimball does an excellent job of having you really identify with - and empathize with - him, especially as so much is revealed about his father and his emotional and psychological state. I think it's also the perfect length. Just the right blend of letters, interviews, and narrative tricks.
I related to this book for many reasons. First of all, to produce a novel in the form of letters is a creative idea to begin with, but Michael Kimball pulls it off masterfully, with a hint of genius. The protagonist, Jonathon Bender, dies on page one but the travels of his life prove to be an amazing journey.
The portrayal of Bender's various struggles with his mental illness are portrayed sensitively and accurately by Kimball. You never feel pity for the character nor do you become disgusted by Bender's decompositions; you only pull for him the way one would pull for any likeable character. This is a brilliant, enjoyable, heartbreaking book and I recommended it highly.