Eulogised by artists and derided by gossip columnists in equal measure, it’s a time where the pain and tragedy of our mortal existence crosses a very dangerous threshold, one that threatens to undo a life’s work in days.
While looking like a cunt.
That uncle you looked up to as a kid? He’s taken to wearing day-glo hoodies and has a soul patch. That woman who used to babysit you? She’s raided her daughter’s wardrobe and is heading to Ann Street for collagen injections.
Of course, modern society has capitalised on the mid-life crisis by making it seem like a period as essential as university or your first born. But, at its heart, it’s a time of life that can drive many to the edge of despair. A time when all your achievements and life skills pale in comparison to others. A time when that gnawing sense of dread, despair and dissatisfaction mutates into an omnipotent being, chaining itself to you and taunting you for your lack of youth.
Such great fodder for a novel.
Fin tells the story of Doug Kelly. A banker in his late forties, he begins the novel by lying in a hotel room thinking that he’s having a heart attack. He’s visited by an entity called Finisternis (which roughly translates as ‘eclipse’) who proceeds to break down life, the universe and everything in it, while Doug is forced to re-examine his life and his actions.
Tales of redemption aim to be soul quenching reads that combine pathos, tragedy and rebirth but so many end up being trite due to being written with one eye towards the ‘inspirational quote’ market beloved by a certain type online.
Unfortunately, Fin very much falls into that category.
This is because there is an imbalance in the characters. Doug spends half of the novel sneering or firing one liners at Finisternis, who constantly reiterate that he is neither an angel of death nor light. It plays like a mediocre buddy cop movie. It’s a shame, because there is a genuine air of sadness and regret that comes through Doug whenever he’s not trying deliver zingers. You genuinely get the sense that his self-loathing has consumed him so much that he can see no way off the path that he’s currently on. His anger is real and his demons all too close for comfort at times.
As the tale progresses, Finisternis proceeds to evangelise in very long form, feeling like an extended interview with the author.
Take this as an example:
It is not ‘God’ that needs your prayers, sacrifices and veneration, it is yourselves. It is perfect compared to you; it does not need your flattery. You are seeking a way to connect to it, but you have not yet grasped that the only way to achieve this is via your own spirit and by loving another human being. Once you rid yourselves of your demons, and bring your dark side into the light, then you have truly found your inner self. Only then can you love or merge yourselves with a person. And that is the closest you can get to the divine during your lifetime.
I know, who farted?
All of these combine to reduce the book to a soggy mess that can only offer bland spirituality over genuine character development and insightful observations on the modern world. And the ending, which threatens to go against the grain of the text by hinting at bleakness, bottles it at the last minute.
Competently written, but with little to say, Fin makes a mid-life crisis seem middling.
Christos Mouzeviris, 2021, Fin. Self Published. ISBN-13: 978-1788462020
⏩ Christopher Owens was a reviewer for Metal Ireland and finds time to study the history and inherent contradictions of Ireland. He is currently the TPQ Friday columnist.