A Coward's Guide to Living

Fiction - Literary
252 Pages
Reviewed on 09/06/2022
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Author Biography

Starting out as a photo-journalist, Bruce’s travels took him across the United States, Canada, and Europe. Ultimately that resulted in his first book, Arn? Narn., a photo-documentary of vanishing rural Newfoundland, published in 2012. For context of the book, the posts from the Arn? Narn. blog are being added incrementally to this site. Arn? Narn. was named Book of the Month in November 2012 by the English magazine Fly Fishing and was nominated for the Pushcart Prize.

His photography has been exhibited in numerous galleries, private collections, and museums. His work has been featured in publications such as the New York Times, Country Journal, Yankee magazine, Memphis magazine, Delaware Today, and The Sun magazine among others.

Putting his cameras aside, he turned his attention to writing fiction. A Coward’s Guide to Living is the result of that work. It’s about a cowardly and fearful middle-aged man’s reluctant journey of self-discovery. Tasked by his late friend to get his act together, he finds more than he bargained for, gaining much, losing some, and learning that there is life after death.

When not writing, he can be found attempting to learn the guitar (badly); reading almost anything within reach; listening to music; discovering obscure films, and traveling. Good food and better wine fit in there somewhere too.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Anelynde Smit for Readers' Favorite

A Coward’s Guide To Living by Bruce Meisterman is an emotional journey that will make you feel things like never before. Our story follows Jacob Will and the death of his best friend Farrel ‘Farry’ Poland. On the day of the funeral, Jacob is handed a letter, dictating that he must die eleven little deaths of his own to become a better person. As Farry put it “in order for you to completely understand something, you’ve got to give yourself over to it completely”. With the help of Reverend Rose, Jacob sets out on a journey not to see anything in particular, but everything in general. This leads Jacob to travel across America, running into the most colorful characters that you can expect from such a journey. On the road, he copes with grief, loss, and getting to know himself. The blinders come off and he is stunned by what he finds. One tattoo, a drug-fueled evening, and heartbreak later, Jacob finds out what it really means to live to the best of his abilities.

A Coward’s Guide To Living by Bruce Meisterman is a very precious novel. Not only can you relate to the characters and feel what they feel, but you could also -- with the help of details -- see what he saw. I loved the detail in this book and I loved the way it made me feel. When Jacob was caught in a bad situation, you could feel your skin crawl. The author is very good at expressing emotions. It was very believable and struck a chord with me. This story is one I think anyone who has experienced loss will appreciate. The people he meets on his travels are those unlikely souls that come out of the pages and into your life. The encounter with the homeless man Wade was very moving, with both suffering from loss and both dealing with it in completely separate ways. I highly recommend this book to anyone in search of a good story. This story makes you laugh and cry and feel like you’ve never felt before. This book is not to be missed.

Vernita Naylor

Words can take on different meanings. For example, what resonates with you when you hear the words 'coward,' 'suicide,' and 'risks'? The meaning of these words can vary according to one's perspective, environment, or associated circles. A Coward's Guide to Living by Bruce Meisterman is a story about limitations, choices, and eleven little suicides. Here the author tells the story, of which some parts are true, about Jacob Will who embarks on a journey of self-discovery and self-worth. When Jacob's best friend Farry committed suicide, Jacob was challenged to see beyond himself to avoid developing the same pattern of failure, disaster, and loneliness that Farry had felt. As the author states, suicide is not necessarily the ending of life but roadblocks occur that tend to hold some of us captive and paralyzed from moving forward.

Bruce Meisterman provided so many nuggets and passages of wisdom in A Coward's Guide to Living that were eye-opening. As I became a part of Jacob's journey, it depicted a pathway that we all embark upon at some point in our lives, when we come to that fork in the road that is the determining factor of our destiny. Even though Farry took the road to his final destination, his love for Jacob was the gift that he left behind, cautioning that suicide should not be his end. He believed that if Jacob continued to limit himself to his surroundings, he would begin to create a pattern of blockage, fear, and stagnation. Chew on this message from the author: "'All things must die.’ He was right, but I learned that in death, there can be life, a rebirth." How you deal with your little suicides of life at this point is essential for your future. If you're looking to gain some understanding and direction for improving your life, this book will be a great way to start.

Pikasho Deka

A Coward's Guide to Living is a slice-of-life drama novel by Bruce Meisterman. Jacob Will is still processing the death of his best friend Farell Poland (Farry) when he is given two letters written by Farry prior to his suicide, one of which he is allowed to open only after he had completed his "eleven little deaths." After a talk with the Reverend Rose Beecham, Jacob sets out on a road trip that will take him through the deep south until he arrives on the west coast. Along the way, Jacob will find himself in situations he has never been in before, including a bar fight, wasting a perfectly good champagne bottle on the wall, and being robbed by a wanderer. He will also find love. But can he let go of his cowardice?

A character-driven drama about a young man's quest for self-discovery, A Coward's Guide to Living focuses on the little things that can hold a man back from living his life to the fullest. The narrative is a slow burn, but all the more rewarding for it. Jacob is a man readers will find easy to sympathize with despite his numerous flaws, which he must eliminate one by one to respect his best friend's last dying wish. Author Bruce Meisterman crafts some grounded characters whose struggles and inner conflicts provide the narrative thrust of the story. The ending is left somewhat ambiguous. Did Jacob ever get back with Hannah? I guess it's left to the reader's interpretation. Overall, I very much enjoyed the book and will gladly recommend it.