Book Review: What Just Happened

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Writing a book review is always a joy. It makes me relive the story, cherish the words, makes me curious about the author’s other works, or it irritates me enough to hold off on further books.

I know this author, Charles Finch, through his Charles Lenox series. So, reading a journal from this author was going to be a treat.

Finch writes about everything and anything in and around the pandemic. From being home to very personal insights into his health, his state of mind, and how his friends handle the pandemic. It starts in March 2020.

As I said before, when I write a review I relive the book. In this case, I went back into the pandemic. March 2020. We had returned from Europe to the USA in January, were already gearing up for covid19, when our university announced a second spring break week. That’s when we were sure that a lockdown would follow. And it did.

Finch takes you almost day to day through his life and it ends with the Inauguration Day of President Joseph Biden. Some things are described in a word, in one sentence, and some days are pages long. Some events that featured in the news are summarized in an almost clinical manner. Some are very personal. It is exactly what you would expect from a journal.

I read critique online that the book feels uneven, has no consistency, or that an editor’s red pen chopped into the book, and then Finch rewrote parts to unify it again. Maybe an editor alerted him to leave out details about people as it might violate their privacy. I can see that happen. However, if I were to read a journal, and I find myself facing a perfectly worded, always full sentence, balanced, logically evolving storyline, I don’t believe that I am reading a journal.

Take my own. On some pages, you would find a series of numbers without context. I was probably counting something over several days and didn’t wanted to lose track. There’s the occasional but always returning rant that a recipe is not a gospel but a guideline. Then there are pages long explanations why a Christmas tree in July makes no sense and a line or two about health issues. Throw in a cussword or two! The point is, there’s no balance as it is what pops up in my mind or, what I have to get off my chest at that moment. Sometimes that goes in one word, sometimes it is an eloquent, long read.

In short, when you read ‘What Just Happened’ let go of the beautifully tailored sentences and scenes that is the Lenox series. Forget about storylines, plots, and characters. Get ready for an honest review of a pandemic year by an author who stepped out of his comfort zone and allowed us into his life and mind.


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