The first chapter of NickHornby'snovel, "A Long WayDown"introduces the 4 main characters, Martin, Maureen, Jess and JJ. Eachmain character tells the story in a rotating first person, and eachsection clearly identifies who is speaking. The story starts with Martinexplaining why he is on top of a fifteen-story building, on New YearsEve, "Can I explain why I wanted to jump off the top of a tower block?"
The pacing of the story is fast and furious. The switching betweennarrators leaves the reader dizzy, in a "Being John Malkovich" stylevoyeuristic whirlwind of personalities. Martin, we learn, is amiddle-aged morning television talking head, out of work, and out ofmarriage, because of a well-publicized affair, with an underage girl.Maureen is a conservative single mother of a special needs child, nowgrown. Jess, turns out to be the rebellious daughter of a well to dopolitician. JJ is a musician, out of work and out of luck since his bandbroke up, and sick of delivering pizzas.
NickHornbybrings these desperate souls together, on a night when each has decidedto end their lives. The characters are well drawn and consistent; attimes each is likable, dislikable, frustrating and endearing. The bookis well timed and well organized. We are introduced to each character inturn, and we genuinely want to know how life will turn out or end. NickHornbytakes a depressing subject and heart breaking characters, and weaves atale that leaves the reader satisfied and entertained.