at bottom everythingAt the Bottom of Everything
Author: Ben Dolnick
Narrator: Chris Patton
Published 2013 by Blackstone Audio
6.7 hours – Unabridged

What would you risk to get to the bottom of things? What happens when you finally arrive there? And what if it turns out to be a place you can’t come back from?

When we meet our protagonist Adam Sanecki, he’s pursuing what looks like the fairly typical aimless life of the recent college grad. Sure, he’s 26 now and has been out of college for more than a couple years, but it’s not that unusual to see young men heading into their late 20s like this: idling in a dead-end job, preoccupied with thoughts of an ex-girlfriend, sleeping with a middle-aged client. A chance encounter with the mother of a childhood friend, however, leads Adam to unfold a heart-stopping backstory that goes a long way toward explaining how he has come to be stuck in neutral … and ultimately leads him (and the reader/listener) down a winding path to the destination described by the book’s title.

Adam met Thomas Pell in seventh grade, where at first they seemed unlikely to get along at all, but instead they became the closest of best friends. Thomas was an unusual boy, standing out from the crowd in the way that almost always spells trouble at school. Adam surprised himself by becoming an ally to this weird pariah whose intellect, interests, and social awkwardness made him persona non grata among the rest of his peers. Soon Adam was spending more time at Thomas’s house than at home, sharing in family meals and bonding with Thomas’s parents, and having the kinds of conversations and adventures you can only have with your best friend, and only at a certain time in your life.

The transition from middle to high school was not kind to Adam and Thomas’s friendship, however, as Adam found himself increasingly distracted by the allure of more conventional alliances and acceptance into mainstream teenage society. As his attitude toward Thomas shifted, Adam felt the need to inject an element of excitement into the time they spent together, with a series of seemingly mild risk-taking activities. One evening, the adolescent thrill-seeking went terribly, tragically wrong, and nothing was ever the same again for Adam or for Thomas.

Back in the present day, Adam — abruptly unemployed and even more adrift than usual — agrees to help Thomas’s parents track down their son, who has fallen off the radar. Suddenly, Adam is on a plane to India. Before the trip and the story are over, both Adam and Thomas will journey much farther and far deeper than either of them could have predicted.

Reader Chris Patton delivers a star performance on this audiobook. He is utterly convincing in both the so-called voice of sanity (Adam’s narrative point of view, which comes across as level-headed, but may prove to be less than 100 percent reliable) and the hauntingly familiar voice of advancing madness (Thomas, then and now, who faces the truth and reaps the consequences). Patton’s matter-of-fact style is an excellent fit for this kind of tale, which starts out seeming like one kind of novel, but subtly turns into another kind along the way, almost without the listener’s realizing it. You might want to shake both Adam and Thomas more than once as the story progresses, but you ultimately sympathize with both young men, and what they both go through will definitely make you think. Dolnick and Patton conspire to bring this about.

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Disclaimer: I received a copy of this audiobook from the publisher as part of the Solid Gold Reviewer program administered by Audiobook Jukebox. No payment was received in return for a review. The receipt of the book had no influence on the opinions expressed in my review.

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