It is always a rare and exciting moment in an editor’s life when a typescript arrives on your desk (or in your inbox, as it does these days) that REALLY sends tingles up your spine and down your neck and leaves you reeling. This is how I felt after reading THE A TO Z OF YOU AND ME.
We see so many talented writers, but there is one thing for an editor to personally love a book and another thing for a groundswell of colleagues to love it too, and to want to publish it, and make it work in the marketplace (a tough place, as you may know).
When I first read Jim’s novel, I thought: here is a stunning voice – quietly witty, dark, generous, modest, curious, regretful, hopeful – that touched me deeply. More importantly, I was convinced I had discovered a book that I would want to press into other people’s hands and urge them to read.
Jim’s central character Ivo is an everyman, but he has his own particular story – he is in a bad way (to put it mildly) – and he has brought this bad way on himself. So his story is in a way a battle of the demons, and how he comes to terms with those demons.
You could say this is a book about death. But others say it is a book about life. It’s all about how you look at it, what sort of personal story/baggage/experience the reader brings to it. And that is its strength – a story that can be many things to many people is truly a universal one.
I envy new readers of THE A TO Z OF YOU AND ME who will go on the incredible journey I first went on when Sue Armstrong, Jim’s most ferociously talented agent, first sent this to me. I laughed, I cried, to use that terrible cliché. But isn’t that what every life experience is about? Glorious ups and terrible downs, and finally an unforgettable sort of calm and reconciliation.
The ending of this book is truly one of the most heart-wrenching I’ve ever read in my days (years) as an editor. It truly punched me in the stomach and made me re-assess everything I’d just read, it made me contemplate my own life, and that of my friends and family.
I won’t give the ending away here, of course, but reader, be prepared. It is an uplifting ending, in the purest sense. You will never ever forget it.
Thanks everyone for reading this. Enjoy the book, and pass it on!
Jane Lawson (Editor, Penguin Random House)
The A-Z of You and Me is one of our February books of the month, and will be published on March 12th in hardback and ebook.