My thoughts: This novel took me on a roller coaster of a reading experience. I absolutely adored the first few chapters. I was reading it in public and could not stop myself from laughing out loud. The narrative began smart, funny and fresh, as when he describes the uniforms his sons wear to Catholic school:
I think these uniforms wouldn't be so bad if they didn't make the kids all look like bank tellers on casual Friday or the employees of a discount airline or--like me...Throughout the book, the hilarious observations share space with thoughtful musings on life and love:
Our marriage was typical, I think; we deluded ourselves that it was made of rock-solid stuff, but there were trace elements of regret, seams of I-told-you-so, cracks of martyrdom.The book began delightfully, but it soon descended into a satire so dark it was sometimes depressing. The push and pull between funny and dire fell out of balance for me at times, and I enjoyed the middle part of the book less than the rest. Even while I was not enjoying it completely, I still couldn't put it down, which is more a testament to Walter's writing than storytelling ability. I also laughed out loud more with this book than with any other in recent memory.When the story didn't move me, the writing still did. By the end, I was back on board with the story too. I may not have ended up loving it as much as I did in the early chapters, but I'm still glad I read it, and I think it's a solid, if not slightly unbalanced novel. It's certainly not for everyone, but I'm glad I read it, and I will look forward to more Jess Walter novels in the future.
The verdict: This book definitely isn't for everyone, but I recommend it to fans of smart, dark humor and those who don't mind a little raunch with their literary fiction.
Rating: 4 stars (out of 5 stars)
Length: 290 pages (plus some delightful bonus features in the paperback edition: a short story, an essay from the author on how the book came about--including a hilarious tale of an elderly woman who called him because she didn't understand The Zero and didn't know what to say at book club, and information on his previous novels)
Publication date: It's out in paperback now, in three lovely colors (pictured above)
Source: publisher, via TLC Book Tours
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