Looking for Eden was years in the making… insofar as you had to go through twenty years of mostly happy marriage and a heartbreaking divorce to fix a narrative. Thereafter it was like building a bungalow when the younger version of you really craved a penthouse apartment… but you no longer had the legs. But misery being the court of creation, I felt much better when I had written it all down, thank you very much.
It revolves around Jack Water, a divorced middle-aged everyman, who concludes after a little too much soul-searching, that ‘happiness is a choice’. His optimism starts and finishes at this conclusion however, as he discerns that such a statement of being, requires emotional skills that at forty-five he has yet to acquire.
Plagued by nightmares that seem to reinforce this view, he is further violated by the news that his best friend discovers that he has only months to live after receiving a prophetic flyer through the post, and that his new girlfriend loves him. Middle age is a confusion he can’t bear.
He enlists the help of Jarvis, a forty something celibate, and Stan, who resides in an urn on Alice’s mantelpiece – Stan drowned last year – his hope, to cure his ailing best friend, Ted, and to understand why if he has everything, his life seems so purposeless.
As Jack says:
‘If you are an Atlantic Salmon you just swan around in the oceans for a while building up your strength and then through some unexplained urge you navigate your way up an impassable river system battling deadly waterfalls, copulate or whatever the fish term is, and then you die. You don’t think, bugger now I’ve got to think of what to do for the rest of my interminable existence avoiding bigger fish trying to eat me and putting food on the table – the fish equivalent of avoiding cancer and paying your mortgage – you don’t think anything, you’re a fish. I am an Atlantic Salmon that didn’t die and now I don’t know what to do.’
Looking for Eden is as J.R. Moehringer said, a book about emotions and love and death and pain. It’s about words. It’s about a man dealing with life.