Habitat Man by D.A. Baden
A man who is fed up with his job, his life and being lonely – but who is fascinated by the potential of ordinary gardens becoming environmental havens, is at the centre of this is a funny, compelling read of contemporary life and times. Tim Redfern has spent a good part of his adult life working for an accountants firm in London, “making rich people rich”, and living with his gay friend Jo, who spends her time playing computer games. This is a tremendous read of real, sort of, life of a man who has secrets in his past and no clue about his future. It is about new opportunities, protest and the complexities of contemporary life seen through the eyes of a man who revels in the minutiae of the natural world. Confronted by a lonely woman with a possessive son, a mysterious discovery in a garden and some outrageous knitters, Tim’s life may be a social media success but asks if he can deal with the realities of unwanted publicity. I was pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this engaging novel.
At the start of the novel Tim is contemplating his impending pitch of an accountancy program that he has devised with Jo. It allows companies to work out their environmental costs and allows them to offset them, and will, he hopes, transform attitudes. When he is faced with the two managers competing as to their foreign holidays, he decides to resign. Although he is able to financially, he has to find a new occupation. An eager, would-be life coach inspires him to play to his strengths and he makes a decision. As he is full of information about worms, pollinating insects and beneficial plants, he becomes “Habitat Man” who offers to visit people and advise them how to change their gardens into positive environmental habitats. His first visit is to Lori, a single parent who listens to his advice carefully to get rid of unused decking and reconsider her bamboo plants. Unfortunately her son Ethan is armed and dangerous, albeit with an air pistol, so although Tim is very attracted to Lori he is unsure that he could ever hope for a relationship with her. Encouraged by Jo who offers her unusual world view, Tim becomes embroiled with a wizard and a guerilla knitter of legendary fame after covering a public statue.It is only when he makes a tragic discovery that his life begins to unravel (!) in the face of protestors and obsessive knitters. He wonders if he can keep his deepest secrets in the face of relentless publicity and well meaning social media campaigns, while helping Jo realise her ambition to create “Absolutely disgusting” food and overcoming those who have all sorts of issues with him and his good intentions.
This is a book which I thought was very entertaining in its humour and hapless hero. The concept of gardening with a view to encouraging all sorts of flora and fauna was put over in a very clever way, causing me to think about my own garden. There are many funny incidents in this novel, including revelations in a composting toilet and lists of ingredients rarely seen together. There are some fascinating characters, especially Jo, who manages to keep Tim guessing as to her motives and provides the perfect partner for his largely bewildered dialogue. This is a very good read which combines some serious points with real humour, and I recommend it as a very good contemporary novel.