New Release September 2020!
What’s it about?
Specialness associated with birthdays: each ‘chapter’ is a story, from the point of view of a different character on their birthday, and something exciting, interesting, or meaningful will hit you in each one.
None of the characters quite knew what was going to happen on the day of their birthday itself, be it good or bad, and this was an excellent premise for Forty Birthdays. Most of the characters with birthdays were young, for several running chapters, and perhaps in some cases I read them this way because of the style of putting aside of reservations, making drastic mistakes, and the specialness associated with birthdays.
For younger readers, then, and older readers?
The stories can appeal to a wide range of ages. Under-thirties would maybe better relate to the presence of technology in the stories and the trials of growing up. However, the stories were definitely relatable to me, as somebody in his early thirties, and I have a strong feeling there will be more than a few stories everybody can see themselves in.
The themes were of individuality, love, life, and death, and though all chapters have a philosophical thread through the interactions of characters – subtle some times and blatant at others – there was also a more studied concept of philosophy through ‘soul-hopping’ and the ‘nature of a soul’, beyond a limited definition of love and connection, as a way of seeing or understanding people you like, or at least that’s how I understood it.
The characters vary: eloquent, empathetic, downtrodden, sophisticated (‘a priori’); and come from all walks of life. I did also note LGBT themes through more than a few stories, in a broad definition of love that leads to conflict in some cases, liberation in others.
Messages in each story
Feel-good stories, in some cases, and dramatic and upsetting in others: every story written is powerful and evocative and it’s apparent from the first. In some, there are poignant messages about what really can matter most in life for different characters in different situations.
There were many stories I felt I had grasped the message of them, only to see them from another angle on a second reading. I enjoyed puzzling over the meaning of a few of them also. In this sense, they are stories that can be reread – you can get more from them than a novel you could read and cast aside for a year.
To me, it felt like a pleasant reprieve reading Forty Birthdays – something different from my usual fare and I was surprised how interested I was to find what circumstances the characters in each chapter would get in. I had much enjoyment from the experience, and crucially, the stories never got old!