“Book Review: Life Expands”
Reviewed by Helen Barnes
A rip-roaring travel comedy that offers readers a chance to escape the real world.
Life Expands is an instantly engaging, fun, and lighthearted tale. Finn, a 28-year-old man, attempts to repair his broken heart and find himself by leaving his London life behind to travel to far-flung corners of the world.
“Fuck this. I didn’t want to be a horse. I wanted to be a fucking stallion.”
The reader is swept along with this sensitive but slightly misguided young man as he gets caught up in adventures that will leave you laughing, crying and occasionally cringing. Finn’s travels take him from Ghana, where he works as an English teacher in a village school, to Bali and Thailand where he joins up with his best friend from home. He finds himself entangled in all kinds of comic exploits, before going solo again in Brazil & Argentina.
Along the way, Finn manages to fend off a marriage proposal from a heavily pregnant Ghanaian woman on a blind date and even prostitutes in Brazil before falling in love with a dance instructor in Buenos Aires.
You will laugh and cringe as he nearly loses his “favorite testicle” in the jungle and feel enlightened by his experiences attending a cremation in Bali and having his wisdom teeth removed in Argentina.
“It turned out the ‘fun way’ was fun for people with a death wish….
“I didn’t love the jungle. I didn’t even like it. My aqua socks and I didn’t belong here. We wanted to go home.”
The characters within the book are not to be taken too seriously, but each is portrayed with unique dialect & their own quirky traits. As the book continues on, I find myself empathizing with this young man and cheering for him throughout his adventures.
The lighthearted tales and experiences recounted are also interwoven with more serious reflections by our main character as he witnesses first-hand the harsh realities of real-world issues, and he worries about becoming a stereotypical drunken traveler, seemingly not caring about the lives around him.
Finn discovers the sinister world of sex trafficking and child prostitution in Thailand, and he witnesses extremes of poverty in Latin America and Africa. These reflections add a slightly sobering tone to the book and ensure that the destinations he is visiting are portrayed with accuracy and empathy, while making the reader stop and think. By the end of the novel, will he mend his broken heart and maybe find a new love?
If you want to leave your everyday life for a while, to go on a romp around the world with a fun, likable, and slightly naive young man, then give Life Expands a read.
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