In the tradition of Tom Perrotta's Little Children, a "mesmerizing, unsparing" (Karen Russell, author of Swamplandia!) debut novel about a wealthy man who has reached a crossroads after a lifetime of repression and denial, sending him - and his family - into a slow spiral toward a total breakdown.
When Michael sees his wife, Nancy, chatting with a stranger at a party, his intuition tells him that he's watching her with the man she should have married. He quickly begins a campaign to replace himself within his own family with this other man - who, to him, is worthier, better, and kinder - all so his faithful wife; his beautiful teenage daughter, Ryan; and his young son, Max, can live the lives they deserve.
While Michael pursues this man's friendship, Ryan goes through a period of sexual awakening and rebellion and distances herself from her family, and the quiet, weak Nancy becomes increasingly befuddled and frustrated by the behaviors of her husband and daughter. As tension and uncertainty build in their home, the James family slowly unravels.
With the quiet intensity of the film American Beauty and the emotional sensitivity of Lorrie Moore, Taylor Larsen creates a powerful and moving story about the fracturing of a family and its descent into chaos.
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Character and plot development
The unique plot, suspense, and high-quality writing truly shine in what I found to be a mesmerizing work.
I started with the hardback book after reading the excellent print reviews and finished up with the audiobook. The performances of the narrators bring these complex characters to life with depth and sensitivity.
Who could resist dinner with Ryan?
No. Simply. No.
- Robin F