The 39 Deaths of Adam Strand

I have killed myself thirty-nine times. Usually when I say this-and I rarely do-people misunderstand me. They think I mean that I have tried thirty-nine times, that I have tried and failed. Do not misunderstand me-I have succeeded thirty-nine times;it is not me who has failed. It is something else.

Adam is a bored to death(no puns intended) teenager who kills himself 39 times. Mostly by jumping off the bridge and then there are other means like  jumping off from other high places, drowning, asphyxiation, poison, hanging, fire, gun,chain saw and train. Every time He kills himself, he comes out of it unscathed. And then he tries again and again and then again.The novel is  a first person narrative as Adam takes us on a journey covering his oh so boring life and equally boring deaths. The dull summers, colorless Birthdays, the tiresome town, the unexceptional family, some handy but equally irksome  friends, a dead cow who takes her own time to erode, a love interest Jodi, an overly patient therapist( so patient that sometimes you wonder who is more dead,  Adam or the therapist?) . Throw in a couple of little less boring characters and what do we have here? A novel which gives you 39 deaths!

We( the novel and me) were having a good time until it turned into this completely self obsessed, repetitive, dull, no good, roomie. It isn’t a badly written novel in fact it is very well written and wisely put together one. I guess I had far too many expectations. When you pick up a novel with a title as mysterious as this one you naturally want it to revolve around the 39 deaths . The motives behind them, the enigma surrounding his death and eventually coming out alive, the  deeper meaning and the effects of it all on Adam. But the novel stays away from all the much-needed elaboration. As a matter of fact in Adam the Author conveniently creates an individual which could justify such obscurity.

The problem with Adam as a character is that he fails to win any sympathy. He has no motive for killing himself except for his very existence that wears him,  but then what else do you expect from somebody who spends his days drinking with friends? Friends he wouldn’t want to be stranded in a desert island with. Watching a cow decay and turn into a corpse is another crucial   ambition  of theirs. He even manages to jeopardize his potential love life by having sex with someviolentbody( why? why?). Not only his routine but even his theories and reasoning behind his act of committing suicide become repetitive and irritating after a point. I could have found a little solace had there been a reason given for his miraculous come back  or at least his experience during the time he is dead, but no that was not to be! Time and again he talks about how the best part of all this is the time before he comes back to life but make little efforts to describe that feeling.

His killing himself and coming out of it unscathed  too become boring and monotonous so much so that nobody cares.  Do you see an irony here? He kills himself to escape boredom and ends up boring people with his routine. That routine in itself becomes boring, monotonous, uninteresting and bothersome. Why doesn’t he find the process of killing himself boring just as he finds living uninteresting, is beyond my understanding.

The rest of the town grew tired of me a long time ago. they don’t even bother to take me to the hospital anymore. 

It’s a bother, i know; the whole town has the eye rolling exasperation, the- we’ve- seen- it -all- before resignation…

It left me waiting for the moment which would justify my decision to pick up this book but it never materialized  . Why does he kill himself 39 times?( I understand He is bored but I was rooting for a deeper meaning). How does he come out unscathed from it all? I was hoping for a reasonable  enlightenment or a higher understanding on the subject but it mostly fails in that area.We as readers stay where we were at the beginning of the novel . Yes Adam as a character does change but the change in itself is abrupt and indigestible.

what turned me on : The concept of the novel.

what put me off : The concept itself falls flat due to the absence of clarity.

verdict: Even though it didn’t come up to my expectation, I would still consider it a decent read.


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