Mike Gayle’s The Man I Think I Know is a refreshingly different read for me. It is a simple novel about two men. Men who are devoid of toxicity, destructive ego and a presence of vulnerability that humanizes their pain. The Man I Think I Know is about male friendship. Much more than friendships, it is about second chances and redemption and highlights how easily lives can be turned in a split second.
James and Danny were high school classmates. Though classmates, they did not mix much due to the differences in their social classes. James was a posh kid from a rich home while Danny was from a poor background who only go to attend an elite school because of a scholarship he won. The barrier created by their backgrounds comes crashing down after their individual lives are turned around for the worse after different incidents. Years later, they find themselves at a care home. James as a patient and Danny as a carer. There at the bottom, they find each other and a platonic friendship that revels in the vulnerability of their individual pain lead the road to their individual redemption.
Redemption and second chances are at the heart of The Man I Think I Know. The unrealistic tone of the book is that everyone who seeks a second chance gets it. While that is not always true in life (some don’t even get the first chance, much less a second one), it is a very humane tale that stirs hope in the reader and reminds us how life’s turns are so fickle. The structure of the book in which both James and Danny take turns in being the protagonist in subsequent chapters gives depth to the character development despite the simple nature of the book. The Man I Think I Know is not a deep read but a thoroughly enjoyable one.