James Chiltern boards the 23:50 sleeper train from London to Edinburgh with two pork pies, six beers and a packet of chocolate digestives. At 23:55 he sends a message to all 158 people in his contacts, telling them that he plans to end his life in the morning. He then switches his phone to flight mode. He’s said goodbye. To him, it’s the end of his story – and time to crack open the biscuits.But across the world, 158 phones are lighting up with a notification. Phones belonging to his mum. His sister. His ex-best friend. The woman who broke his heart. People he’s lost touch with. People he barely knows. And for them, the message is only the beginning of the journey.
Funny and wise, tender and deeply moving, Contacts is a beautiful story about the weight of loneliness, the importance of kindness – and how it’s never too late to reach out.
Contacts is a book that left me thinking about it for a good while after finishing it. It’s emotional, thought-provoking and at times humorous, despite its serious subject matter.
We follow James, a 30-something man on a train from Euston to Edinburgh – his last journey, as he’s decided to kill himself in the morning. He sends a mass text to everyone in his phone’s contact list to say goodbye, and then turns it to flight mode.
From then on, we delve into the thoughts and feelings of various people in James’ life – his ex girlfriend, ex best friend, flatmate, mother, sister… various people who once featured so importantly in James’ life but have drifted away or made contact with him less and less over the years.
I found this book a weird mix because it is so readable and very entertaining, but also very sad at times. Despite the sad storyline, I enjoyed reading it, and it never felt overly or unnecessarily gloomy – though there were quite a few heart-wrenching, and poignant, moments. I loved reading about the characters – they felt convincing and interesting, and it really made me think about the power each of us has to reach out to people and make such a difference in another person’s life.
I have to admit, I wasn’t completely satisfied with one particular part of the ending – it seemed a bit sudden and the person in question’s character seemed devastatingly brief, considering their part in it all. I wanted that character to be developed more so we know why they made those particular choices. However, I raced through Contacts and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it.
Many thanks to the publisher, HarperCollins UK, for providing a copy of this novel on which I chose to write an honest review.