Need a gift idea for an eclectic reader? Or a man who likes to read but has a cynical streak? How about someone in the midst of a mid-life crisis?
New release, LAKE SUCCESS by Gary Shteyngart just might fit the bill.
Shteyngart isn’t my usual fare, and yet I couldn’t put his latest novel down. The premise got me. The voice kept me.
This book is as fresh as the headlines of the last couple years. Namely, the race to the presidency by front-runners Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.
Normally, the prospect of a political message, particularly one skewed against President Trump, would put me right off. But in the masterful hands of this author, current events and the political landscape of today completely fits the bill.
You see, protagonist Barry Cohen is a middle-aged success story.
The son of a pool man, Barry went from the School of Hard Knocks to Princeton University.
He worked hard to overcome his perceived inadequacies (i.e. making friends, selling himself, coming from dirt, losing his mother in a car accident, etc.) and has achieved the American Dream.
Except everything in Barry’s well-ordered life is falling apart except for his beloved and extremely valuable watch collection–a topic the man could go and on about.
Barry’s married to a younger, East Indian-American woman, Seema, whom he loves and with whom he has fathered a son named Shiva.
But the cracks in his marriage begin to show when the two must deal with their three-year-old son’s autism diagnosis. Shiva is nonverbal and extremely challenging to raise. Even their scads of money that buys a full-time nanny, and all the therapists in Manhattan doesn’t, in the end, help a lick.
It’s enough to push the marriage over the edge. Which is where the reader finds it in Chapter One.
Drunk, Barry is assaulted by his wife and the nanny, so he flees into the night to take a Greyhound bus across America in search of his first love, a woman from college named Layla.
As the billion-dollar hedge fund manager plows headfirst into the heartland, he encounters the people who voted for Trump. The whole basket of Deplorables.
And since I count myself among Deplorables, I cringed a bit until I realized that author Gary Shteyngart didn’t at all portray us as uneducated, incestuous, gap-toothed, slack-jawed inbreds–the way others have, including the mainstream media. Bravo to the author for the verisimilitude represented herein.
Anyway, Barry isn’t just running from his wife and child, however–there’s been a bit of a kerfuffle with his business dealings.
Remember that jackwad who increased the price of a specific medication to astronomical proportions last year? Well, it seems our Barry did something similar. And it’s only a matter of time until he gets his comeuppance for his shady, greedy dealings.
And lest you think that Barry’s wife, Seema is a poor, put-upon woman, she’s got her own giant bag of transgressions. Which she’s got to try to figure out for the sake of her son, her family, her future.
LAKE SUCCESS is a deeply perceptive ride through the zeitgeist of America of late. Plus, it’s just fun to read along as Barry stumbles through life with blinders on to life’s ironies (like most of us.)
I did, however, have a problem with something Barry did at the climax of the book. It was jarring and way out-of-character for a dumpy heterosexual man–even one with a midlife crisis. It may give the author hipster-libster cred, but it caused this reader to suspend her disbelief.
That being said, this book is nevertheless worth a read and/or a gift for anyone who has been married, hit midlife, or has raised a difficult child. In other words, most of us.
Also a good choice for that person on your list, male or female, who always seems to have their finger on the erratic pulse of America in the here and now.
Whether you’re a Never-Trumper, a MAGA-devotee, or a blue-blooded Democrat, this book is sure to please.
Foxy Rating Scale: Four out of Five Foxes
Happy Reading or Happy Gifting!