Lazarus is the autobiography of Roderick Wood, a fairly typical Englishman spurred into committing his life story to paper after a sudden heart attack in February 2014. This random tragedy had caused him to be declared medically dead for 27 minutes before a successful resuscitation. Following a several-month recovery period from which his family was told he may never function normally again, he defied expectation and found himself back on his feet and full of old memories and new ideas, “activated … from way back”. Both as part of his recovery process, as well as reignited by his experience, the resulting text is presented here.
While one might expect the book to be naught but an inspiring tale of hope and life after death, Roderick takes a more sincere, blunt-force approach: his story is less on his brush with death and instead a full reflection on a long, storied life, warts and all. The book is, after all, the story of a working-class lad who grew up in a poor housing estate in 1960s Worthing – a large seaside town in south of England – and Wood’s telling makes no illusions of grandeur at any point; anecdotes of his time as a self-imagined, partially-recognized football star are woven in the same fabric as when the “local bike” casually relieved young Wood of his virginity, in uncompromising detail.
The book is heavy with the distinct, unabashed culture of the British working class, and more endearing for it. An obvious warning, therefore, to those far less acquainted to the attitude is that there is a crude, even occasionally repulsive level of detail to events, from drunken mistakes to sexual mishaps. A self-identified Catholic, Wood seems happy to show that he is a flawed individual, displaying ready acceptance of that fact at the same time as showing a long time-line of self-improvement. There are no solid truths or life facts, just experiences. That said, his spiritual beliefs do factor in as he discusses the re-commitment to his faith and the way his recovery has been affected by that, and may be attractive for readers looking for discussion in that vein.
Wood makes clear that he is simply a man who has lived long enough to have enough good stories to fill a book, and makes good on that promise. The layout and editing of this book is pristine, organized well between the different ages of Wood’s life. Additionally, some poetry is included in a final chapter that bears relevance to his experiences, feeling appropriately complimentary. With something of an English Karl Ove Knausgaard touch here, Lazarus is essentially the no-holds-barred life story of an uncut stone polished with time.