Wesley is a depressed prison guard who has lost all enthusiasm for living. A twice divorced 33-year old father of two, he sees his kids every other weekend, lives in a rotting dive, and watches all his money disappear in child support payments. Once a social, educated, cultured young man, now he feels like a loser who can only help himself by paying an inmate to kill him so that his loved ones can inherit his life insurance.
Andrew Armacost delves into the male psyche in this novel, investigating feelings of failure and hopelessness in men through the character of Wesley Weimer. It was a different read for me, perhaps because I am a woman or perhaps because I’ve never considered how a male divorcee might feel upon losing his wives and his kids to other men; how it must feel to be an outsider in a family that was once your own; how empty it leaves you to have children who are almost strangers to you and who connect more with their step dads than with their actual dad.
Wesley’s pathetic existence can make any reader’s own life seem better. We’ve all hated jobs, felt alone or unloved, been dissatisfied with our living situations, but, hopefully and unlike Wesley, not all at once. He is a man so unhappy with life and himself that he has cut himself off from everyone and everything: news, sports, entertainment, the very things that form small talk and the basis of connecting with coworkers, strangers, acquaintances. Wesley has become so isolated that he can’t even hold a conversation with the people in his life. It’s a form of social suicide when one can’t “swim in the common soup, to speak the commercial language of modern society. These things are important. The only alternative is loneliness, isolation, despair.”
I enjoyed the narration and the voice Aramcost created with this character. It felt very honest. The despair and utter lack of hope rang true. I did think the story bogged down a bit in the middle. A bit too much digression, too much of a comparison between humans and cattle sent to slaughter, and I felt the end wrapped up very quickly, a reflection on the past that left some things – not so much unresolved, but with a feeling of being skimmed over or too lightly touched on. Overall, however, I liked the story and the character. And one quote that really stuck out to me and that I think anyone can relate to:
“Repetition erodes life, chips away at it until hardly anything is left because one day or week is interchangeable with any other, as if the days were coming off the assembly line ready made, identical, and therefore pointless.”
Wesley had let his life become repetitive to the point that he felt it was no longer worth living. So, readers, spice it up and keep life interesting. And give The Poor Man’s Guide to Suicide a read.
Moonshine Cove Publishing, 2014