I’ve been chatting about books on CBC Calgary’s afternoon drive home show for about 10 years now, so I’ve gotten a clear glimpse behind the curtain of live radio. That being said, there’s A TON I don’t know about this industry, and the inner workings on the morning show here are still a mystery to me – how people go to work that early every day seems like an ongoing challenge. It’s these little quirks of the morning radio show host life that make up the bulk of the book Radio Jet Lag by Gregor Craigie, a lighthearted look into one sleep-deprived Dad’s job as the new host of a morning show in Victoria, British Columbia.
Stephen is a young father who has just moved across Canada to start his new job as a morning radio show host for a private broadcaster. His wife is a lawyer who is at home with their newborn son Noah, but struggling with the demands of having a baby in a brand new place with no family around. They also have a dog Rosie, which at this point in their life, is more of a burden than companion (as a cat lover, I am of course biased) With a large mortgage looming, Stephen has no choice but to trudge to work every day at 4am, even after waking multiple times in the night to help out his wife. He’s had a canoe strapped to the roof of his car for months because he hasn’t had the time to take it off, and every free moment he gets, he takes quick cat-naps, and even falls asleep on-air once. Their baby has never slept for more than a few hours straight, so everyone in their household is sleep-deprived. On top of simply surviving, Stephen has stumbled upon a big story; the local homeless encampment is in the process of being torn down, but as he interviews the folks living in it, he hears rumors that someone is paying them to relocate elsewhere, attempting to rid their beautiful town of this perceived eyesore. But Stephen’s boss is sick of the ‘woke’ crowd, and threatens Stephen to quit reporting on homelessness. When a personal issue forces Stephen to make a deal with his boss, things get even more challenging for this weary father figure.
Aside from our protagonist and narrator Stephen, we don’t dive into many of the other characters, the focus remains on solely on him for the majority of the book, which I found refreshing; new fatherhood isn’t a topic dealt with often in books, so I appreciated reading about his perspective, and the struggle to survive a workday when running on so little sleep. His wife Carole is more of a background character, but she’s shaded in with realistic elements. More than once she breaks down in tears or mutters ‘I can’t do this anymore’ and goes for a walk by herself to cool off, which is a common feeling for many new mums. This phase of their life is not an easy one, but it’s a situation that many can relate to
You can tell by the cover of this book that it’s a feel good story; something you can enjoy even as serious issues are touched upon. There is lots of humour too – Stephen is a bit of a clown, he’s tall, often misunderstands things, and because he’s so tired, stumbles around more than usual. It’s not laugh out loud humour, but I found myself warming to him almost immediately. There is a lot of focus on how he is surviving his sleep deprivation and the numerous Tim Hortons visits he makes (Tim Hortons is a Canadian institution, our donut shop and restaurant we are likely most known for). Maybe its because I read so many thrillers now, but I had an ongoing sense of dread that something very bad was going to happen to him, a car accident, etc. because he is so tired all the time, and it seemed so unsustainable. No spoilers, but rest assured there is a happy (if not ambiguous) ending.
My only complaint is a minor one. In each chapter Stephen would make some odd observations that insinuated something bad might happen, which put me on high alert, expecting a terrible occurrence was right around the corner. Perhaps this is because I read so many mystery novels, but when certain hints were never followed through on, it felt like a dropped thread in the story, even if it was (likely) done on purpose. Aside from that minor quibble, I thoroughly enjoyed my morning show experience with this novel.