Nadine Gordimer's novel, "Get a Life" is not a bedtime story or a nook to take on a plane. It requires attention and leaves the reader with a burden of thoughts.
The starting point is a very unusual, extreme situation: Paul, an otherwise healthy, active ecologist in his mid-thirties is diagnosed with thyroid cancer. He undergoes treatment, which, although effective, renders him radioactive and therefore potentially dangerous for those close to him. He decides to separate himself from his wife, Berenice, and his son, Nicky, and to stay in his parents' home, in maximum possible isolation. The forced solitude prompts Paul to think about his relations with people, to re-evaluate his marriage and to feel even more rooted in the world around him (although, paradoxically, also more alienated from it.
Paul's experience deeply affects his closest family - his parents, Lyndsay, a lawyer, and Adrian, a businessman with longings towards archeology, look into their past, and make unexpected decisions about their future. Berenice feels the change in Paul and the shift in their feelings to each other.
Paul's cancer experience changes not only his own life; it transforms the people around him. They seem at the same time more separate, distinct individual entities, and more connected to the network that is the world. As if their senses became sharper, more refined. Gordimer writes with clarity, analytically, looking a the characters from all angles; the novel has an omniscient narrator, and the universal becomes very personal. Despite the clear logic, the novel is not a breeze to read. It was a slow journey through the meandering words and I have to admit that sometimes I thought I'd give up. Luckily, always some breakthrough in the plot happened in these moments of doubt and this way I made it to the end. The multiplicity of weighty subjects (all kinds of interpersonal relations; post-Apartheid South Africa; nuclear energy and its impact on civilization, nature and medicine- to name a few; incidentally, nuclear fission is what becomes a kind of a bracket connecting everything here) together with complex, rich prose, made me pause often - there was just too much to think about and it was not possible to finish this novel at one sitting. But it was worth the effort.
I liked the dual meaning of the title: the colloquial exclamation encouraging to do something with your life; and the understanding of life; the first possible to accomplish with a little effort, the second - not at all.