Monday, June 28, 2010

Book Review of The Life O'Reilly by Brian Cohen

The Life O'Reilly is Brian Cohen's debut novel. I admit that I wanted to read the book in part from its description but also because Cohen wrote it while practicing law. He continues to practice law and write in his spare time. The Life O'Reilly won the Indie Book Award for First Novel and was a finalist in the 2010 Indie Excellence Awards.

"Let me tell you a little story about when I was a senior associate here at the firm working on a very important case. I was part of a team that was conducting an important document review. My wife and I had planned a trip to Florida to attend my brother-in-law's wedding and take the kids to Disney World. I notified the partner I as working for, who I'll leave nameless, that I would have to be away for a while, and you know what he said to me? " He paused. I deadpanned blankly in response.

"He said, 'Well, if you want to get married and start a family, that's certainly your prerogative. But as far as your trip is concerned, think about what we have at stake here. What you have at stake here. This is a very important case, and, as you know, the document review is crucial." He took a breather, but clearly had more to say.

"l'm listening, " I said, feeling achy. My face remained impassive.

"So, I took the hint, set my familial obligations aside, and stayed behind and worked. Now, while I admit I practically ruined my marriage over that, you see, Nick, that's the kind of dedication we need here at the firm. That's the kind of dedication it takes to succeed here, making big money working on important matters. Understand?" - The Life O'Reilly by Brian Cohen

The Life O'Reilly
The blurb:
On the outside, Nick O'Reilly has it all: a high-flying legal career, as a partner of an elite Wall Street law firm, and financial security, with an apartment overlooking Central Park. Having grown up in a working-class family, as far back as Nich can remember this was his dream. But at the age of thirty-six, after several years of sacrificing his personal life for professional gain, Nick has started to ponder his future and consider the mark he wants to leave on society both professionally and personally -- his legacy.

After being chastised in the press for turning a cold shoulder to the community, the firm calls upon Nick to help rehabilitate its image by handling its first pro bono case. Nick is asked to represent Dawn Nelson, a domestic violence victim who is fighting for custody of her young son, Jordan. A far cry from Nick's specialty of defending the misdeeds of Corporate America, it is up to Nick to set Dawn and Jordan on a path to a better life. But Nick gets much more than he signed on for, as Dawn forces him to reassesshis life choices and, ultimately, be true to himself. Only when Nick finally realizes what is truly important in his life does he face his toughest -- and probably final -- challenge: a battle for his own survival.

Exploring the flaws of being human and the importance of controlling one's own destiny, The Life O'Reilly reminds us of how precious life is and how quickly and tragically it can change. Written with great empathy, The Life O'Reilly is an emotional and unforgettable talke that will challenge one's expectations of the modern love story and introduces a poignant and sensitive new voice in fiction.

Knowing about the author sometimes influences how you approach his work. I started The Life O'Reilly with a strong sympathy for the author since he must have written it while he worked at his successful law practice during the day. I also paid particular attention to his descriptions of Nick O'Reilly's professional life - the intrigue and power plays of the partners at Williams Gardner & Schmidt.

Cohen captured the small details of life at a law firm from the perks to the "fluid schedule" that governs the lives of everyone from paralegal to associate to partner. When Nick changes his schedule, his mentor Phil immediately notices the change and challenges his dedication to the firm. This slowly forces Nick's position to crisis. Cohen's description of Nick's mentor Phil and Will Schmidt, the hard-driving name partner at Williams Gardner & Schmidt are carefully drawn and well done. The rather negative portrayal of lawyers and law firm life is offset in part by Evan, Nick O'Reilly's partner and colleague. Though a successful attorney with a strong independent practice, Evan is deeply dissatisfied with life at Williams Gardner & Schmidt. Evan is torn by demands at the firm and his desire to carve out time for his family. The conversations between Evan and Nick about life at the firm give the book a certain authenticity.

The one part that bothered me was the actual conflict that arose -- but this may have come from my own biases. The one criticism that I have of the book is that I could not understand the path that Nick O'Reilly took. Other reviewers had a different take and gave The Life O'Reilly glowing reviews. You might check out the glowing reviews that the book received at Suko's Notebook, Life in the Thumb, Cy Hilterman at Ezine @rticles, Frugal Plus, Michelle's Masterful Musings.

I had expected the book to be a thriller and was alert to sudden violence. The "UNEXPECTED EVENT" caught me by surprise and made The Life O'Reilly an unusual and enjoyable read.

ISBN-10: 1440150273 - Paperback $17.95
Publisher: (October 21, 2009), 276 pages.
Review copy provided by the author.

About the Author:
Brian Cohen earned his Bachelor of Accountancy from George Washington University and his Juris Doctor from St. John's University School of Law. He as been practicing law for twelve years. Brian lives with his wife and their daughters in the suburbs of New York City. He is at work on his second novel. Visit Brian at

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