Looking for something new, different and from a brand new author? Well, why not try ‘Living on Empty’ by Jordan Aubry Robison! This novel is an alternative fiction than most of us are used to reading. We all want to live the dream but with current economies not doing too good, businesses not recruiting, or folding completely, living the dream seems to be only as it reads: a dream!
It is very easy to connect to the main character, Jimmy, due to the realistic nature of his problems and the reader follows Jimmy through his average life in the beginning right through to the adventure and action that he goes through as he tries to make his life a little more exciting. To begin with Jimmy’s only release from his dead end job, debt and boredom is visiting The Fish Bowl bar with his best friend, Norm, and taking part in the karaoke and mixing with others in similar situations. As the story continues Jimmy begins to hit rock bottom and begins talking to the likes of Clint Eastwood, gets involved with a busty bartender and as his imagination begins to run wild, in reality he finds himself deeper and deeper in trouble!
There is a great sense of realism in some aspects of the beginning of the book and it came as no surprise that Jimmy is based on Jordan Aubry Robison’s real experience in regard to his career. Jimmy is trapped in a dead end job that he is over-qualified for. However, jobs are very few and far between and every active job seeker is applying for these vacancies, making it almost impossible to be in with a chance of being offered the position. ‘Living on Empty’ is written from Jimmy’s point of view and the reader feels a true sense of the desperation Jimmy feels to be someone, to gain acknowledgement and to belong to someone. He is very lost and he doesn’t receive much help from his older pal, Norm, who has pretty much missed his chance of a decent life.
Written with wit, cynicism, quirkiness and sarcasm, this dry humour made me laugh throughout the novel. Regardless of how desperate the situation there are some surreal moments and surreal characters that make ‘Living on Empty’ a fun and adventurous book to read. One of my favourite supporting characters is Joe, a colleague of Jimmy’s, who tends to just sleep. A lot. He’s late for work, he sleeps through shifts, etc. I just found his character hilarious.
I felt that the pace of the book to begin with was slow on and off in the first few chapters, however this emphasizes the boredom and desperation in Jimmy’s life and pushes him to want to do something with his life. The comedic moments are aplenty though and enlighten the mood. As the story opens up it becomes more eventful but also more serious and dramatic, making for a great story.
No matter how real a scene seemed to be, there were always elements throughout the novel that were quite surreal and complete fantasy. I enjoyed the contrast of this and I particularly liked the idea of having legendary people, i.e. Clint Eastwood, Steve McQueen and Elvis Presley, speaking and offering their advice in Jimmy’s imagination whenever he was bored. I particularly like Clint Eastwood and could visualise him with the Jimmy character of this novel. I did find some of the fantasy scenes a little confusing at times and was trying to work out what was happening for real and what was in Jimmy’s mind.
One of my favourite characters, aside from Jimmy, is Emilio as he is full of surprises. Even though in many ways he is a shady character I would like to find out more about him. We see two different sides to Emilio – there is the more friendly, pally side and a more menacing streak.
Jimmy’s lustful desire centres on the busty bartender, Jasmine and if he admits it to himself he could easily fall for her charms any day. However, Jasmine is very good at playing the boys against each other and does not suffer fools gladly. She is very sexy, strong and smart and the biggest question is ‘can she be trusted?’ Every time Jimmy falls for her he seems to get into more trouble. Is she a victim in all of this too, or is she part of the cause?
Jimmy’s life certainly isn’t dull by the end of the novel, even if some events were bad. I feel that Jimmy almost had the life he was seeking, however, Jordan Aubry Robison has left it open for a sequel. What is to become of Jimmy? Will it end as a happy every after or will there be plenty more trouble to come. Or is this the end for the reader to make up their own mind? I really hope for there to be a sequel as there really are some great characters in this novel.
‘Living on Empty’ was received gratefully from Jordan Aubry Robison in return for an honest and fair review.
Below are the Facebook page links for Jordan Aubry Robison and the novel, ‘Living on Empty’ :
Cover art by Jordan Aubry Robison
Reviewed by Caroline Barker