Reviews - In The Day by Kevin Marman
'That's an awful lot of stuff twisted up inside there, Tom' (In The Day page 98)
Tom, the 49 year old character of Totnes-published author Kevin Marman's book is a person who is struggling. Long-term unemployed for the first time ever, he has to 'keep it in the day', to keep busy, to stay meaningful, to live with the good awarenesses that are often there if one simply breathes into the moment.
For Tom this means fighting an often ferocious daily battle against the pain and bleakness of his past and his often empty-seeming present with its tensions and irrititants, aware that the day itself might bring bad stuff, maybe sufficient to re-ignite a self-destructive blaze.
Tom copes well, in fact he copes outstandingly. We see him working out at the gym, working in a voluntary capacity as an adult education tutor of computer skills, going to his alcohol recovery support group and meeting with the close family members that are left in his life. Carly, Tom's support worker puts it well for many of us when she says,
'God gives us our relatives...so thank God we can choose our friends.' (page 100)
A fairly consistent picture emerges, although Tom cannot always see this for himself, of a kind, hard-working, sensitive intelligent person with excellent coping strategies.
(But these are not always enough.)
Although In The Day can be emotionally uncomfortable, the author lifts us above doom and gloom by the sharpness of his writing. The narrative skill employed here to create a work where past and present, people and information about relevant issues, locality and universality are woven together in harmony is truly impressive. There is often a crisp spontaneous humour borne of experiential grit. Sometimes 'you have to laugh.'
And we are always engaged with Tom; his first person story, his doings, his feelings.
In The Day is set in a seaside town. I live in seaside East Devon and am struck by the book's descriptive truths. The feeling of a community in November where the clock winds down until the following Spring. The elemental beauty of the waves and the green contrast of the fields behind. The sense of solidity and also of shifting sands; the moods of weather, tide and time.
Dealing as it often does with issues of self-harm, alcohol addiction, abuse and Borderline Personality Disorder (the author is particularly astute on how the moods of a person who has this condition can flicker and flash like lightening) this book offers interesting and relevant information for people with experiences akin to Tom's and for people who are employed in medical and social care.It could become a useful training text as it illustrates the necessity of seeing and engaging with the human and not merely making assumptions from their diagnosis alone.
However, first and foremost, In The Day is a terrific book simply for people who like to read.
In The Day, Kevin Marman, Longmarsh Press, Totnes, Devon