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Book Cover Image: The Life O'Reilly by Brian Cohen

Title:  The Life O’Reilly

Author:  Brian Cohen

No. of Pages:  266

First Released:  August 2009

Synopsis (Courtesy of Joseph-Beth Booksellers):  “On the outside, Nick OReilly has it all: a high-flying legal career, as a partner of an elite Wall Street law firm, and financial security, with an apartment overlooking Central Park. Having grown up in a working-class family, as far back as Nick can remember this was his dream. But at the age of thirty-six, after several years of sacrificing his personal life for professional gain, Nick has started to ponder his future and consider the mark he wants to leave on society both professionally and personally his legacy.

After being chastised in the press for turning a cold shoulder to the community, the firm calls upon Nick to help rehabilitate its image by handling its first pro bono case. Nick is asked to represent Dawn Nelson, a domestic violence victim who is fighting for custody of her young son, Jordan. A far cry from Nicks specialty of defending the misdeeds of Corporate America, it is up to Nick to set Dawn and Jordan on a path to a better life. But Nick gets much more than he signed on for, as Dawn forces him to reassess his life choices and, ultimately, be true to himself. Only when Nick finally realizes what is truly important in life does he face his toughest and possibly final challenge: a battle for his own survival.”

Comments and Critique:  In this day and age, when people struggle to find balance between work and personal life, when they are on call twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week thanks to smartphones, laptops, e-mail, cell phones, and all of the latest technological breakthroughs, The Life O’Reilly is here to remind us of the importance of setting our priorities.  It is a beautifully written story that requires the reader to stop and think about his or her own life and what is truly important, something everyone needs to do periodically. 

Brian Cohen definitely has a way with words.  In fact, he likes his details.  Everything is meticulously described, from the setting to the interior to appearance.  Actually, he likes his details a bit too much.  While I understand, and appreciate, establishing a clear picture for the reader, at times I felt that the details distracted the reader from the overall story.  Mr. Cohen does a fantastic job of establishing a connection between the reader and Nick that does not require knowing the brands and fabrics of what he is wearing or where he purchased his furniture.  The story and underlying tension loses momentum each time Mr. Cohen would start drawing a verbal picture for the reader. 

The Life O’Reilly is very fairy tale-esque in that most of the conflicts are quickly and easily resolved.  Life is just not as tidy as Mr. Cohen presents.  The easily resolved conflicts leaves a reader wanting more – more drama, more problems, more reality.  However, the reader eventually realizes that Nick’s problems are not the point of the story.  Rather, Mr. Cohen is stressing the idea of not taking life for granted.  Once the reader ascertains the overall message, he or she can sit back and enjoy the rest of the story, and enjoy it they will.  While one might not be a high-powered lawyer, almost all readers can relate to the need to eke out a personal life from the ever-expanding work requirements, to establish our values and our priorities.  Nick struggles with these very real issues, and the reader supports his every move.

Added to Nick’s struggle is the very poignant bloom of romance between Nick and Dawn.  Mr. Cohen does an amazing job of presenting the first blush of love – the confusion, doubts, and emotional roller coaster that coincides with that romance.  Nick and Dawn’s story is heartbreaking and beautiful, reminiscent of first love in all its hesitancy.  Again, it is a relationship to which most readers can relate.  The reader cannot help but fall in love along side Nick and Dawn.

In spite of its weaknesses, The Life O’Reilly will remain with the reader long after the last page is turned.  Mr. Cohen does an excellent job of reminding his audience that we should have no regrets in life, that life is fleeting, and that we need to live it to its fullest now rather than wait for a future date.  Nick’s story is haunting, and I find myself dwelling on the lessons learned periodically throughout the day even weeks after I finished reading the book.  The Life O’Reilly is a subtle story but well worth the time spent reading.

Thank you to the author, Brian Cohen, for this review copy.  This selection counts for the 100+ Reading Challenge as well as the Read ‘n Review Challenge. 

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