Title: The Life O'Reilly by Brian Cohen
Summary: On the outside, Nick O'Reilly has it all: a high-flying legal career, as a partner of an elite Wall Street Law firm, and financial security with an apartment overlooking Central Park. Having grown up in a working-class family, as far back as Nick can remember this was his dream. But at the age of thirty-six, after several years of sacrificing his personal life for professional gain, Nick has started to ponder his future and consider the mark he wants to leave on society both professionally and personally - his legacy.
It is when the firm due to PR reasons is compelled to accept cases "pro bono", that he gets a chance to really make a contribution that matters and within it realize what truly makes him happy and how much he is willing to let go in order to keep that happiness.
Review: I had seen a couple of reviews online and the book really seemed worthwhile, but it wasn't until author Brian Cohen contacted me himself offering to send me a printed copy of his book that I got the chance to read this. He even signed it for me and added a little dedication which was a wonderful surprise that made my day. (Thanks so much!)
I started reading the book almost immediately after getting it in the mail, but I had to stop when I fell sick so that is why it took longer than I had planned.
I found the story compelling and truly relevant to today. I feel like all or almost all have to make sacrifices one way or the other regarding our careers or our occupational path in general. Even if our ultimate goal isn't something more than financial security - recognition and wealth like Nick O'Reilly of the book- we still have to put a lot of work into realizing it. We often end up with a lot of extra hours of work having to stay late and having to say "No" to offers of going out for drinks etc.
Nick has found himself in a similar situation. Inspired by the hardship of his father regarding his work, where he was falsely accused of wrongdoing by his company
in order to be let go without a high cost, Nick puts everything he has got into the pursue of perfection and wealth. That at the cost of his personal life and -as he himself admits- of his dignity and conscience. He mostly deals with financial issues and he knows from the start that his clients aren't innocent. They do steal, embezzle etc. Everything for profit. He is not exactly ok with it, but he doesn't do anything to uncover the whole thing. He accepts it and does his best to get acquittals. He is so good at his work that he has even become a partner.
Then -exactly because his Law Firm has become infamous for its ruthlessness and the not-giving-back-to-society, he is forced to accept a pro bono case, that is a case for free that is more about marital law than anything else.
Dawn his client, is a good-looking, educated woman mother of Jordan who was forced to flee her house after being raped and violated/maltreated by her husband, Jimmy.
It is your typical abusive relationship, which Dawn would be inclined to accept if it weren't for Jimmy's threat towards Jordan's safety. After that she goes away and never wants to look back. But Jimmy keeps threatening and harassing her.
Nick is immediately fascinated by Dawn and he strength of character and her worth as a person and a mother and starts to consider what he has missed out on life due to his constant working. He starts to long for time out, free of work. Time he can spend playing piano (which he adores), resting and even planning a family.
These feelings start to take more and more space in his heart and mind, till it becomes obvious that he can't go on like he is.
His boss, Will, is a cold, manipulative man who cares about nothing but money and Phil, a colleague, is nothing but an annoying, shallow and rude man. I really disliked Phil be kept turning everything into a competition with Nick and relished at all of Nick's misfortunes.
I really liked the flow of the story and even though the description was more factual than emotional, I found it easy to follow and that it made clear exactly what was happening. It is true that I would have liked a little more of a description of emotions and perhaps that could have made the transition from day to day and one big event to another a little more gradual and smooth, especially towards the end.
There was a huge bad thing happening and I felt that it could have taken up more space out of the book. It was a really gripping moment and even though I found myself really tearing up, I think we could have more pages spent following that.
I though the description was generally really good and there were a lot of images that stayed with me during and after reading the book.
Examples: "From where I stood the massive green oasis looked like a big square head of broccoli , the kind they bring you in a Manhattan steakhouse with gaping holes here and there." - I really want to visit a Manhattan steakhouse now! :P
At other instances I found myself chuckling along with some incidents, like when Dawn and Nick ended up at drag-queen show-restaurant (rotfl) and when poor Nick made the mistake of looking at some old, lonely guy in the eye and ended up hearing his life's story.
It made ms sad though, that however good of a person Nick truly was- he wasn't really hardened by his lifestyle all those years, he still had a conscience and sensitivity and consideration of other people's feelings - life kept dealing him misery and bad luck. I wasn't really expecting the ending and it left me with a bittersweet taste. It was still hopeful and the ending managed to make me cry a little, as I had grown fond of both Nick and Dawn, but I wish I had known. Then again, that's life both sweet and bitter so I guess it was to be expected. You win some, you lose some as they say.
Notable Scene/Description: "Nick said he loves you, Mommy"
"Well, I'm glad, honey" she said and whispered into his ear. Again, he giggled.
"Mommy, loves you too" he aid. I quickly responded.
"Tell Mommy to close her eyes"
"Why?" Jordan asked.
"Because I have a surprise for her" I said...
I whispered into Jordan's ear "Tell Mommy I want to know if she'll marry me."
Verdict: A bittersweet tale of a man's journey into self-fulfillment and self-awareness. The story of a life changed to what it should be. This is a story well worth a read. You will find yourself caring deeply for the characters, smiling at their happiness and tearing up at their sadness and above all they feel true. We might have seen or read a similar story before, but it is well-told and it is different than what you would accept.
Rating: I think anything from 3 to 3 1/2 stars is appropriate as this was a book I really enjoyed and it influenced me. I might not be a lawyer, but considering the circumstances in Greece at the moment, things are really hard and one is forced to make many sacrifices regarding his personal life if he wants a job. I think it kinda hit close to home for me because of that.
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