Afraid of the Light by Douglas Kennedy

Blog tour: 8 to 14 July 2021


Brendan is an ordinary man; a married man and devoted father who has always tried to live his life well and do the right thing. Now, on the cusp of sixty and having lost his job after corporate downsizing, he is struggling to stay afloat in the only work on offer for a man his age – driving for Uber.

When one of his rides, a retired professor named Elise, asks to be dropped off outside an abortion clinic where she now volunteers, Brendan finds himself driving right into the explosive epicentre of one of the most polarised ethical issues of our time. As the religious and moral divisions deepen within his own family, everything about the life Brendan knew, starts to unravel. Will the unlikely friendship with Elise bring the possibility of a new life or does the ‘good guy’ never win?

The portrait of a man trying to navigate a world of division and anxiety, Afraid of the Light is a highly charged, plot-driven, deeply affecting social thriller that speaks to our troubled times.

My review

In Afraid of the Light, we meet Brendan, 56, who is married to Agnieska, 54, and they have a daughter called Klara, 24. After 27 years, Brendan was made redundant from his job as a regional sales director for a big electrical cable company called Auerbach and now works long hours as an Uber driver in Los Angeles, dealing with aggressive and rude customers, earning the minimum wage and living on the brink of losing his livelihood at any moment – if someone complains about his car or behaviour, he’s likely to be let go by Uber.

One day, Brendan picks up a woman called Elise Flouton, a retired UCLA professor and women’s rights activist, and drops her outside what turns out to be an abortion clinic, where she volunteers, and it’s from this point that his world quite literally explodes. He gets caught up in events that make him question his own beliefs and those of his family and friends and he learns things about them that shock him to the core. He becomes involved in tense and dangerous situations and the lives of several people are put at risk. Can Brendan help to resolve the situation before his close family members are hurt?

In between fascinating observations of his mainly unpleasant passengers, we learn more about Brendan and his life and family – his childhood, how his parents got together, how he met his wife, their religion and beliefs, their daughter, etc. It makes for intriguing reading and really helps to build a picture of our main protagonist, who often does what is expected of him and what he thinks he should do, rather than what he actually wants to do. He is struggling and regretful and quite literally ‘afraid of the light’ at times.

From a rather relaxed start, the pace speeds up rapidly and I was surprised by the direction that the book took and found it very dark, gripping and tense and I flew through it in less than a day and couldn’t put it down. It’s engagingly written, covers some very emotive topics and is very powerful and thought provoking.

I haven’t read any books by the author before but the synopsis for Afraid of the Light was intriguing and I was keen to read it. This compelling and emotional thriller includes some difficult issues including family relationships, grief, religion, abortion and a person’s choices in life, and made me question my own beliefs and thoughts.

I really enjoyed this provocative and enthralling novel; it was cleverly plotted and made a big impression on me and I was still thinking about it days later. I will definitely be checking out the author’s back catalogue and reading more of his books soon!

Buy the book

Afraid of the Light by Douglas Kennedy can be purchased from Amazon on Kindle and in paperback, and as an eBook from Kobo and iBooks.

About the author

© Paul Stuart, 2012

Douglas Kennedy is a masterful storyteller whose compelling and thought-provoking, moral and emotional page-turners have sold 15 million copies around the world.

Kennedy was born and raised in Manhattan and educated at Bowdoin College and Trinity College Dublin. He returned to Ireland in early 1977 and co-founded a theatre company, Dublin Stage One. Eighteen months later he was put in charge of the Abbey Theatre’s studio theatre, The Peacock. During his five-year tenure he began to write – selling his early radio plays to RTE and then to BBC Radio 4. He quit his post at The Abbey Theatre in 1983 to become a full-time writer and has lived by his pen since then.

Kennedy was a columnist for the Irish Times and, in addition to four plays for BBC Radio 4, had a stage play, Send Lawyers Guns and Money, staged by The Peacock Theatre in 1984. His first book, Beyond the Pyramids: Travels in Egypt was published in 1988, the same year he moved to London. Two further narrative travel books followed: In God’s Country: Travels in the Bible Belt USA (1989) and Chasing Mammon: Travels in Pursuit of Money (1992).

In 1994, Kennedy’s first novel, The Dead Heart, was published, followed by The Big Picture (1997) which was an international bestseller, selling over three million copies and publishing in 22 languages. His subsequent acclaimed novels include: The Job (1998), The Pursuit of Happiness (2001), A Special Relationship (2004), State of the Union (2006), The Woman in the Fifth (2007), Temptation (2008), Leaving the World (2009), The Moment (2011), Five Days (2014), The Heat of Betrayal (2016), The Great Wide Open (2019) and Isabelle in the Afternoon (2020). The Big Picture was filmed in France as ‘L’Homme Qui Voulait Vivre Sa Vie’, directed by Eric Lartigau and starring Romain Duris and Catherine Deneuve. The Woman in the Fifth was filmed by Pawel Pawlikowski, starring Ethan Hawke and Kristen Scott Thomas. He received a WH Smith Award for The Big Picture, the Prix Deaville for Temptation, and the first Grand Prix du Figaro for his body of work.

A celebrated writer in France, Douglas has sold over 8 million copies of his books there alone and is a fluent French speaker. In 2007, he was awarded the French decoration of Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. He has also published a book of philosophy, All the Big Questions … With No Answers and two children’s books.

Douglas divides his time between Maine, Manhattan, Paris, London and Berlin and is available for interview and events.

Twitter: @DKennedy_Novels
Facebook: @DouglasKennedyBooks
Instagram: @douglaslkennedy

Blog tour

Thanks to Hutchinson Heinemann for my paperback copy of Afraid of the Light and to Megan Denholm at ED PR for my place on the blog tour.

See the banner below for more stops on the #blogtour.


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