Five Days by Douglas Kennedy

I imagine most middle-aged people struggle from time to time with feelings of self-entrapment. The ordinary family dramas that make up our daily existence often involve responsibilities that are the price of human relationships and limitations that are the consequence of economic necessity.

Douglas Kennedy is a master when it comes to creating believable, sympathetic characters — particularly female characters — and then confronting them with choices and dilemmas that resonate with the experiences of many readers.

Five Days tells the story of Laura, a radiologist who is unhappy in her marriage to Dan but bound by her sense of responsibility to her career, community and her two children who are just getting ready to embark on independent adult lives.

When Laura attends a work conference in Boston, she encounters Richard — an insurance salesman — and strikes up a conversation with him. This “happenstance” encounter is a trigger leading Laura to critically examine the limitations that she has placed on her life.

Like Laura, the other main characters — Dan and Richard — are also dissatisfied and unhappy. Perhaps unhappiness is the normal state — it has 122 synonyms apparently, where happiness has a mere 81.

Kennedy enjoys synonyms and playing with words — and indulges in this sport liberally throughout Five Days. I found myself calling up the Kindle dictionary to help with terms like “spiculated” and “aleatorical”. But that aside, this is an engrossing and mostly satisfying read. Of his earlier work, I particularly enjoyed The Pursuit of Happiness,  State of the Union and A Special Relationship. For me, at least Five Days is Kennedy doing what he does best.

Five Days by Douglas Kennedy is published by Random House / Hutchingson, 2013. I purchased the ePub edition — ISBN 9781409021469.