Next is a well-written book about reflections on a life that may have been better
lived, had it been guided by some forethought on the part of the person living said life.
Kevin Quinn is going through a mid-life crisis and living on the sort of edge that many have
experienced since the 9-11 terrorism that took place in the USA. Quinn has played it safe
most of his life and now he wonders about that safety and how stable it really is. Hynes
does a remarkable job of bringing the city of Austin, Texas to life and shows us an often
forgotten part of the countryside there.
Quinn boards a plane, even though he has a fear of flying that is almost debilitating,
to go to a job interview. During the flight he goes into a musing reflection on his life
and goals. He starts to make a friendship with the woman seated next to him, all the while
thinking of a man who is a terrorist, who has the same sort of face he has and a name that
is similar to his. Once in Austin, he stalks this woman and gets himself into trouble in
minor ways, all the while musing about his imaginary life and the twists and turns that it
could have taken. His mind rants on about things that he didn’t do, couldn’t do, and wouldn’t
do. He thinks about the life he might have lived, had he had aspirations to do so, and if he
hadn’t always taken the easy way out, avoiding most of the challenges he came across.
Personally, as an older person reading this book, I found it a bit too tedious and more
narcissistic than I would have liked. It shows the shallowness of the generation coming up
and how they are prone to whining about not having been given the chance to become what they
want to be. They are not willing to actually take the bull by the horns and do something of
substance or face the fear that goes along with a great idea or mission.
The last fifty or so pages of the book make for a great ending; but even though it is a
spellbinder, it, too, is somewhat shallow. This book was undoubtedly written for someone
much younger than myself, as I had a really hard time following the self-absorption that
was deeply instilled in the story, and someone who is so ingrained in doing that in the
reality of their lives would find it an easier read. Life makes you grow up and that is what
it is all about: the growing up, not the obsessive self-absorption of the growing up. It is
a good story, but somewhat boring.