Five Days by Douglas Kennedy

five days

  • Title:  Five Days
  • Author:  Douglas Kennedy
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Published:  April 2013 – Atria Books
  • Source:  Publisher via NetGalley

Synopsis (publisher):  Laura works in a small hospital on the Maine coast, scanning and x-raying many a scared patient. In a job where finding nothing is always the best result, she is well versed in the random unfairness of life, a truism that has started to affect her personally. Her husband Dan has become a stranger since losing his job. With a son in college and a daughter set to leave home, she wonders how the upcoming empty nest will affect the disconnected state of her marriage.

Still, Laura jumps at the opportunity to attend a conference in Boston where she meets a man as grey and uninspired as her drab hotel. His name is Richard. He’s a fifty-something salesman, also from Maine, also in Boston for the weekend. When a chance meeting brings them together again, Laura begins to discover a far more complex and thoughtful man behind the flat façade. Like herself, Richard ponders his own life and wonders if the time has come to choose desire over obligation.

My take:  Five Days is really Laura’s story about what happens when she unexpectedly has a chance to find some joy in her life. She’s given that chance when she meets Richard, a man who has bowed to demands and expectations his entire life. He’s in a loveless marriage and his only son is incarcerated in the psychiatric wing of the state prison. Laura’s choices made previously in her life ultimately led to her current situation: married to an out-of-work and angry man who seems to delight in belittling her and then immediately shows regret yet remains remote. Her college age son is recovering from a breakdown and her high school senior daughter loves the superficial things in life. Even Laura’s job is getting to her.

So we have two stressed-out and lonely people who find in each other a shared love of words and books and a need to be unconditionally loved. Boston is worlds away from their real lives and they grab the chance for connection in the few days they have there. They even go so far as to consider the possibility of a future together. About midway through the novel I didn’t like where things were going and couldn’t shake a sense of dread.

I went from not really liking Laura (as well as most of the other characters) to feeling hopeful for her. That said, the book was just ok for me. I thought the writing was fine but I had a hard time with the depressing tone of the story, most of the characters, and the infidelity theme.