Review: "The Cost of Living" by Rob Roberge

Hey people!
I just wanted to ramble on for a little on a book I just read, “The Cost of Living” by Rob Roberge. I had the pleasure of meeting Rob during one of my residencies at Antioch. I thought that if he wrote anywhere close to how he talked then I would be in for a treat. I went out and bought “Working Backwards from the Worst Moment of My Life” and a writer’s crush was instantly born.

During the recent AWP conference in Boston, I came across the OV Books table. I got to talk to Rob and buy the new book. As much as I wanted to start the book right away, I waited until I got home and decompressed for a few days. I am glad I did because my mind wouldn’t have been able to handle the intensity that this book contains during the conference.
First, here is a summary of the book as ripped from Amazon:
“Bud Barrett, a moderately famous punk guitarist with an infamously wild past, struggles to decipher a murder he witnessed as a child, that may have led to his mother’s disappearance. Only his father, a man with his own tumultuous history of violence and addiction, has the answers Bud—now on the brink of divorce and finally, if tenuously, sober—needs.”
A small side note before I go on about the book, I really hated doing book annotations during my MFA. Coming from an undergrad that had little emphasis on English anything, I found doing annotations dull and they made me feel stupid. I cannot immediately summon the proper terminology to discuss craft issues. I know how a book makes me feel though, and that’s where I can give my recommendation from.
Okay, I’m back. The first thing I am struck by when it comes to TCOL is the non-linear timeline. I love when writers do this (do it well I should say). It leads me to feel with a greater intensity the loss of Bud’s relationship to his estranged wife, Olivia. Of course, having just ended a relationship, I was internalizing the helpless feeling that hangs around Bud. The book starts and ends in 2011 with Bud being confronted by his father’s impending death and takes the reader to various points in Bud’s life and sobriety along the way.
I just reread the second page and it starts with, “The night before my father would beg me to kill him.” I love that line. Now that I’ve read the book from start to finish, I have been reading random chapters. Reading the first chapter and the last one brings a whole new resonance to that line.
I’m not going to take you through the whole book because I want you to go read it but I do want to post a few lines/parts I loved.
“He was right, but I’d never been able to fake belonging or to act like I was supposed to be anywhere, really. My whole life pretty much felt like a part I wasn’t invited to.” Pg. 207
I loved the Torrance shout out on Pg. 216. I loved the “Broken” chapter with Simone (starting on Pg. 74).
There is actually a lot more I want to post but my damn computer is frizzing out and I want to get this online.
Here is Rob’s bio (also ripped from Amazon): Rob Roberge is the author of the novels Drive and More Than They Could Chew and the short story collection Working Backwards from the Worst Moment of My Life. He’s the guitarist for the seminal punk band The Urinals.
Check out his book tour here. Also go send him a tweet here and let him know how fucking amazing “The Cost of Living” is. Find his site here.
That is all for now my lovelies and as always I hope some of this made sense.
Ashley
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