Review of Nelson’s Journal, Joseph Mendola

Originally published on Reedsy Discovery.

Nelson’s Journal follows the life, dreams and experiences of Nelson Phillips; a man raised to follow his dreams and the lessons they teach him. Each chapter holds one of these dreams and life lessons for both Nelson to respond to and for the reader to question and gain a new perspective.

The premise of this book is good. Nelson is like many of us – struggling to make ends meet and still desiring to do right by everyone in his life. His sorrows and joys are relatable. However, the writing of Nelson’s story is incredibly cliched and twee. Five chapters in and I felt that it was the same life lesson being taught, even though the dreams varied dramatically. Thus, towards the end the chapters felt as if the reader was being preached to by a narrator full of self-importance.

The unique viewpoint on life which is promised does not materialise in the way I am sure Mendola hoped it would. As each chapter follows the same rubric and outcome, the novel as a whole lacks the narrative journey Nelson needed. But, this is perhaps the curse of the craft – Nelson’s journey is solely contained in his journal which means we are derived of the climaxes and resolutions we often desire as readers.

Therefore, although this book was not for me, there is much to still be learnt from Mendola’s craft and Nelson’s dreams. The morals are good ones; Mendola is undoubtedly trying to make change happen. For me, however, it was simply too cliched and straightforward. Perhaps we could all wake up one day and change our lives, but I think it is the sign of the times when a novel which hopes to suggest this, just reads as implausible.

Regardless, it is a novel worth reading and discovering where you, yourself, sit in relation to Nelson in life.

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