Book Review | The Life O’Reilly by Brian Cohen

Title: The Life O’Reilly
Author: Brian Cohen

About the Book:

On the outside, Nick O’Reilly has it all: a high-flying legal career, as a partner of an elite Wall Street law firm, and financial security, with an apartment overlooking Central Park. Having grown up in a working-class family, as far back as Nick can remember this was his dream. But at the age of thirty-six, after several years of sacrificing his personal life for professional gain, Nick has started to ponder his future and consider the mark he wants to leave on society both professionally and personally his legacy.

After being chastised in the press for turning a cold shoulder to the community, the firm calls upon Nick to help rehabilitate its image by handling its first pro bono case. Nick is asked to represent Dawn Nelson, a domestic violence victim who is fighting for custody of her young son, Jordan. A far cry from Nick’s specialty of defending the misdeeds of Corporate America, it is up to Nick to set Dawn and Jordan on a path to a better life. But Nick gets much more than he signed on for, as Dawn forces him to reassess his life choices and, ultimately, be true to himself. Only when Nick finally realizes what is truly important in life does he face his toughest and possibly final challenge: a battle for his own survival.

Exploring the flaws of being human and the importance of controlling one’s own destiny, The Life O’Reilly reminds us of how precious life is and how quickly and tragically it can change. Written with great empathy, The Life O’Reilly is an emotional and unforgettable tale that will challenge one’s expectations of the modern love story.

My Review:

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a suspense novel junkie; however, my second favourite type of novel are what I refer to as “legal drams”. I grew up watching every episode of “L.A. Law” (remember that great series from the 1980s?) and I’ve read every John Grisham book he’s ever written, I’m a huge Linda Fairstein fan and my favourite novel of all time is To Kill a Mockingbird (probably the greatest “legal drama” ever written). In most legal dramas, I appreciate the delicate balance between the legal elements of the novel and the development of the characters involved. Given my passion for this type of novel, I was really keen to read The Life O’Reilly by Brian Cohen.

I immediately appreciated the fact that Brian Cohen is, himself, a practicing lawyer. I find that the best novels are often written by authors who have a close tie to the subject on which they are writing (Kathy Reichs’ knowledge of forensic anthropologists and Jonathan Kellerman’s insight into child psychology as well as Linda Fairstein’s knowledge of how lawyers operate come straight to mind). I hoped that Cohen’s knowledge of the legal system and the inner workings of high-powered law firms would add a dimension to the novel.

The Life O’Reilly begins as the story of Nick O’Reilly, a partner in a powerful law firm who has a loving mother and a busy career but little else in his life. Nick is asked to represent the firm in its first pro bono case, representing an abused wife and mother who is trying to keep her son and escape her marriage. As Nick works on the case, he finds himself falling in love with Dawn, the woman he has been asked to represent. One mistake in judgment leads to a myriad of consequences and takes Nick’s life in a completely different direction and provides him with a legacy that he has never before envisioned.

When I began reading the novel, I enjoyed learning about the inner workings of the law firm, of Nick’s relationships with others and about his own doubts about his life and his future. I understood, and could relate to, the myriad of personalities (some wonderful and some downright nasty) of a large corporate working environment. I also appreciated the connectedness that Nick found with Dawn and the error that he made that changed his life.

As the novel progressed, however, I found the story falling flat. I found the descriptions of people, interiors of houses and even courtrooms to be extraneous to the novel and overly complicated. After Nick falls on the basketball court and the plot takes a sharp left turn, the whole story seems to become rushed and contrived. I was disappointed because I enjoyed the first two thirds of the novel and I REALLY wanted to enjoy the appreciate the remainder of the novel but I couldn’t. It was as if Cohen wanted to turn the novel into an epic and tried to make it more than it was.

Overall, I did enjoy most of the novel. I appreciated the characters and could sympathize with Nick’s frustrations and his humanity as well as Dawn’s plight to escape her abusive husband. According to the back of the novel, Cohen is presently working on his second novel. I hope he will take his knowledge of the legal system and continue to apply it to his work, but that he will pare down the extraneous description and not attempt to turn a wonderful story into an over-reaching epic. I would read Cohen’s next novel to see if he has been able to hone his writing and because I appreciated the characters he developed in The Life O’Reilly.

*I received no monetary compensation for this review. I received a free copy of the book to read and provide an honest review of its contents. The opinions are entirely my own and may not reflect your own opinion upon reading the book.*


Susan is married and lives in Ontario, Canada. She is loves to read, work out, spend time with her family and try new things!

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