The Reason You’re Alive Summary
After sixty-eight-year-old David Granger crashes his BMW, medical tests reveal a brain tumor that he readily attributes to his wartime Agent Orange exposure. He wakes up from surgery repeating a name no one in his civilian life has ever heard—that of a Native American soldier whom he was once ordered to discipline. David decides to return something precious he long ago stole from the man he now calls Clayton Fire Bear. It might be the only way to find closure in a world increasingly at odds with the one he served to protect. It might also help him finally recover from his wife’s untimely demise.
As David confronts his past to salvage his present, a poignant portrait emerges: that of an opinionated and goodhearted American patriot fighting like hell to stay true to his red, white, and blue heart, even as the country he loves rapidly changes in ways he doesn’t always like or understand. Hanging in the balance are Granger’s distant art-dealing son, Hank; his adoring seven-year-old granddaughter, Ella; and his best friend, Sue, a Vietnamese-American who respects David’s fearless sincerity.
Through the controversial, wrenching, and wildly honest David Granger, Matthew Quick offers a no-nonsense but ultimately hopeful view of America’s polarized psyche. By turns irascible and hilarious, insightful and inconvenient, David is a complex, wounded, honorable, and loving man. The Reason You’re Aliveexamines how the secrets and debts we carry from our past define us; it also challenges us to look beyond our own prejudices and search for the good in us all.
My Review of The Reason You’re Alive
Alrighty, I’m not gonna lie — the only reason I grabbed this one was because I needed an audiobook like rightthissecond and so I grabbed the first one that looked remotely interesting from my library’s borrowing app. Matthew Quick sounded familiar (he was — he wrote Silver Linings Playbook) and that was enough. But y’all, it was worth it.
First off, it flew by. Like, I listened to it in under 24 hours. Despite the fact that I’m praising it and giving it a great review now, I almost stopped, just because the narrator is so jarring. The main character is this politically-incorrect veteran who liters the pages with racial slurs and rants about his liberal son. In this political age, it was a bit hard to get through, as it just rang so true. There is, of course, value in the opinions of people who are different from you, but right now I wasn’t so sure I wanted more of that. For all of that though, it’s quite humorous and sharp, which definitely saved the whole thing. Like, it was definitely a gamble on Quick’s part to have a character like this and expect the reader to sympathize.
But sympathize I did. The foul-mouthed vet has a heart, as you’ll come to find out, and it shows itself in the sweetest of moments, as when he is interacting with his granddaughter, Ella. As it often is with getting to know someone you initially clash with, it gave me some hope, seeing the softer side of a man I would usually immediately dislike.
There was one thing that bothered me — the trend of paintings being a focal point in a novel. Maybe it’s not so much of a trend as I think, but I have recently had too much of them. I disliked Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch with a lot of passion, and then right before The Reason You’re Alive I read Tell the Wolves I’m Home, which also features a Very Important Painting, so by the time I got around to this one, I was annoyed with the similarities.
But, all-in-all, really worth the read. The narrator did a fantastic job, by the way, so if you’re needing an audiobook, this is a snappy one.