Middle-aged Martin Sharp had an enviable life: a wife, two daughters, and a successful career as a celebrity host of a morning show “Rise and Shine with Penny and Martin.” That was until he slept with a girl that was 15 years and 250 days old – just 115 days shy of being of legal age – for which he spent 3 months in prison. The media had a field day with the scandal and, after his release, he finds his marriage ruined and his job lost. He sees no option other than to end his life – which is why we find him atop a 15-story building in London (nicknamed “Toppers House,” a popular suicide spot) on New Year’s Eve. While he is contemplating his jump, he is interrupted by Maureen, there for the same purpose, although her circumstances differ – she feels trapped as the sole caretaker of her adult son who cannot walk, talk or even recognize her. Soon, sassy, depressed 18-year-old Jess joins Martin and Maureen; her father is the Minister of Education. Next, JJ arrives. He’s a well-read American who delivers pizza for a living and grieves the loss of his former band and girlfriend.
With their respective end-of-life plans having been thwarted, the four decide to leave the roof the traditional way – via the stairs. The story is written in first-person from the four main characters’ points of view. It recounts their misadventures as they grapple with their predicaments and their pact to live 90 more days.
The author, Nick Hornby, is famous for his dark British humor and quirky characters. These four personalities are all very different; were it not for their chance meeting on the roof, they likely would never have met each other. Their chemistry, as they navigate their path through events, makes the book fun. While finding some limited consolation in each other’s company, they are denied by Hornby any moments of grandiose redemption or epiphanies that might give them the will to live. None of the four find neat resolutions to their problems – just enough tweaking to go on. For Maureen, it’s as simple as joining a quiz group, allowing her a free night each week away from her son.
A few of Hornby’s previous novels have successfully debuted on the big screen: “High Fidelity;” ” About a Boy;” and “Fever Pitch.” “A Long Way Down” was released in March in the U.K., starring Pierce Brosnon as Martin (the U.S. release has not yet been set).