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Reviewed by Romuald Dzemo for Readers' Favorite
On The Fifth Night by Michael Howard is a very beautiful story of a man who struggles to find meaning in his experience of love and suffering, of life and death, a man with his moments of flights. After losing his first wife, Greta, to a terminal disease, Mark Hanson finds love and emotional shelter in Anne, a woman he is going to lose too (and I won’t tell how), but living with Anne brings out the best and the worst in him, leading him on a journey that will transform his life in unimaginable ways.
The book reads like a journey into another’s consciousness, into another’s experience of madness, one of those stories that make readers pause and wonder who they are, because it reminds them of their insanity and the strain of life. For how can big “blow-ups” become an aphrodisiac and how can people feel more connected by the very thing that should pull them apart – violent fights? There are a lot of unusual things going on in Mark’s life, and it is interesting to watch how he develops from an ordinary person with a strong passion for traveling the world to a man capable of feeling “All of life’s perfections and imperfections … more pain, more love, and compassion.”
Michael Howard has developed a very complex character in Mark Hanson, a character who will appeal to many readers, and it is interesting to follow him in his astral travels --- which can be very symbolic of the flights most people take from the crude reality called life. It is also interesting to see how the author can weave the skirmishes of life into a moving story, capturing those intangible things that bind one human life to another in clear, beautiful prose. There is a lot of telling in the story, and while some readers might think this could be a weakness, it seems to result from the author’s gift for descriptive prose and I enjoyed the telling even more, especially those occasional commentaries on life that make readers think about the essentials.
Michael Howard artfully uses backstory without distracting readers from the powerful plot lines. On The Fifth Night is one of those books that will remind readers of the pain of just being human, a pain they can’t escape, because no man can run away from himself. A highly recommended read, thought-provoking, laced with symbolism, and utterly entertaining!