Nothing else happened except that he was studying the boxes of pills he was given – “He picked up the biggest pill. Rosuvastatin Teva Pharma. It sounds like a star or a planet. 40 milligrams. The maximum dose, the cardiologist said. That fact impressed him. “He fell asleep in the middle of the day as he waited for his wife to come home: ‘He disappeared, turned white, and was nothing – no thoughts or anything.’ When he wakes up, she’s sitting on the bed and they’re talking in the uncultured way of long-married couples.At the end of the story, just when we think it’s going to make us fall. In a predictable if not entirely gratifying place, he suddenly tells his wife that he misses his children and begins to cry, expressing the sadness he has been experiencing all this time.
The title story is a complex interweaving of past and present, intertwined with the narrator’s desire to escape from the plight. Alan, a Dubliner who feels like a “62-year-old bachelor” married to a “60 year old spy”, made a trip to the UK for a few days (not sure why) , and though he seriously communicates with his wife, Sinead, he is driven by the urge to disappear: “Be the man without children. There is no country. The man has nothing. In an act of protest, he threw his phone in a trash can — “It was the hardest thing he’s ever done” — and planned to call Sinead on his iPad and sell it back to him. her the details of his humble adventures. “He would tell her he lost his phone. He will let her know the details of his new flight. He will tell her what he saw and heard tonight.” And then, after a pint and a slice of spicy pizza in the BrewDog pub, he’ll go home.
All of the stories in “Life Without Children” have a suspended animation quality, as if the music suddenly stops and the characters are left, each alone, on the dance floor – except for a passage called is “Worms,” in which a couple is literally connected by songs they listen to on a shared pair of headphones, “one bud each, like teenage girls, resting their heads on each other. They heard a version of ‘The Happy Wanderer’ from ‘The Sopranos’, sung by Frankie Yankovic. Joe has never felt more at home, or more excited. Based on the woman he found out that he has been married for more than 30 years. ”
My favorite of the lot is “Charger,” which is also the longest and most developed. (Some of the other stories are of a slightly reduced quality and may transition to lovable moments or slightly glued endings.) Mick is “stuck in a world he doesn’t understand,” including: logistics of mobile phones. “He was the last person he knew to get a cell phone” and he worries: “Will the charger floating in the water kill him – when he lifts it out?” Meanwhile, his wife, Mary, continues to buy him new phones, the newest one with “seven apps he can use and 200 he’s never tried”. Mick has decided that, with his four daughters gone (although they returned home during the first months of the pandemic), his parents are dead and the house paid, he doesn’t ” necessary”: “No one needs him. … No need to do anything, no one to look after. ” When his last “aunts” died from the virus, he didn’t really understand how it happened, even “after hours, maybe days with experts and diagrams.” In the end, we discovered that Mick was an unloved child rejected by his mother and slept upstairs in “rooms full of cousins who didn’t want him there.” His salvation was his wife, who foretold them “decades of happiness” and loved him even as he refused to love himself. Doyle wrote: “He would not exist without her. “She would have been great without him.” Except that, for some reason he and we don’t know, this is the person Mary chose to be with. “You’re mine, Mick,” she said.
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/22/books/review/roddy-doyle-life-without-chilidren.html Roddy Doyle’s Stories of Life in Lockdown