The Confessions of Max Tivoli by Andrew Sean Greer
I heard about this novel over at Books for Breakfast, and since I've been wanting to see The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, it sounded intriguing (I've also heard that Benjamin Button was disappointing, so I thought maybe this would be a better way of dealing with the premise).
Overall, I'm not really sure what my reaction to this book is. It was incredibly well written, and obviously took a lot of thought and development on part of the author, but I didn't actually like the protagonist that much as the novel progressed. At first, it was easy to feel for Max given his extraordinary circumstances, but as he gets older (or younger in body), it's hard to not dislike the choices he makes. And there is something creepy about fifty year old man kissing a fourteen year girl, even if the man is actually 17 at the time.
While his actions in the middle of the book, or his second shot at Alice, make sense, they also seem unjustifiable. He refuses to reveal his condition to her, but doesn't even consider what this will mean for them in the long term, since it would be rather impossible to keep his secret over a long period of time. However, the worst part is probably the way he returns into her life for the third and final time.
In addition to Alice, Max manages to hurt various other people in his life, all in his singular pursuit of love. As his best friend Hughie tells him, Max is incredibly selfish. Despite the fact that I'm very torn about the protagonist, I really enjoyed the novel and the set up. I especially liked some of the supporting characters, such as Hughie, and the ending was rather poignant and saddening. As Max states at the beginning of the novel, "we are each the love of someone's life." The tragedy of this novel is that all the characters define the loves of their lives as people that don't feel the same. Max loves a woman who never even knows who he truly is, and ends up rejecting the one person that loved him as he was.
By the end, Max is fully aware of how damaging his actions have been, and for this reason, decides to confess. The very last paragraph is beautifully written, and a very fitting conclusion.