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Book Review: The Man on the Bench

The Man on the Bench. Gregory T. Obert. BAM! Publishing, February 24, 2016, Trade Paperback and eBook, 153 pages.

Reviewed by Ed Marohn.

“Today was a good day to do it. Today was a good day to kill myself.” And so begins the story of a young adult bent on committing suicide. Sitting on a park bench, the main character, Sean, ponders his death. Suddenly, an old man sits down next to him, invading Sean’s fragile space. John, the old man, becomes an irritant to Sean because of his questions, all the while intruding into Sean’s self-absorption.

It starts as a classical confrontation of young versus old, of two different men from different eras. The reader will find an interesting but different tale for each of them, yet they are connected by the thread of suffering.

Sean is emotionally damaged by abusive parents and by losing his first love, first to another man then, then by her death. He has little patience for John’s intrusion. The curt and abrasive dialogue expands in this short novel, almost driving the two to walk away from each other, but somehow they stay and discover more about each other, especially the sadness they share.

The author cleverly used the old man’s intrusion as a form of suicide intervention for Sean. John's life experiences force Sean to think over his own self-pity. To do this, the author uses flashbacks to develop the various plots and provide the continuity for the story. Although told in the first person, the author pulled off unique use of the third person in one chapter to help John’s life events unfold and for Sean to discover the depression that John went through over the death of his wife.

This is a book about emotional pain due to despair and depression as expressed by an old man who contemplated suicide after his wife died and whose health is now failing him, and by a young man who contemplates suicide after his disappointments and failures. It is a revealing insight into how two strangers can help each other by talking and sharing mental anguish. This is no formal therapy session, just two men on a park bench that fate has drawn together. The park bench becomes a focal point and a catalyst for two lives to hopefully overcome psychological pain.

The author cleverly wove the story for both characters, cumulating in an unexpected finish. Readers will enjoy the building plot lines and will grasp onto them for the race to the end.


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