Wednesday, March 25, 2015


This novel makes dentistry seem like the grossest profession on the planet, and maybe it is.  Paul O’Rourke’s practice has no internet presence, until some unknown entity creates a fairly comprehensive website for him.  The only problem is that Paul did not instigate the creation of this site and certainly does not approve of it.  This is not a book of action so much as it is a book of conversation and contemplation, as O’Rourke makes it his mission to uncover the identity and the purpose of the organization or person who has become his unwelcome avatar.   Before you know it, someone is tweeting on Paul’s behalf and even emailing him.  The novelty of this unlikely identity theft (who would go to this much trouble?) begins to wear thin as Paul become increasingly obsessed with unearthing the culprit.  Paul soon discovers that his heritage is not Irish, as his last name would imply, but in fact he is possibly one of the few descendants of a persecuted ethnic group, the Ulms, whose “religion” was to doubt the existence of God.  I liked this novel, but I became a little weary of the history of the Ulms, and I think his first novel, Then We Came to the End, is superior.  Paul is basically a loner, with no life beyond work and watching the Red Sox on TV, so that this unwanted internet activity at least gives him something else to do.  The women in his office—his assistant Abby, his hygienist Mrs. Convoy, and his office manager and former girlfriend Connie—make for a colorful trio, alongside Paul’s dreary personality.   The book is laugh-out-loud funny from time to time, especially in the beginning, but the author’s descriptions of the insides of people’s mouths are often yucky.  Paul has some pretty quirky patients, but my favorite is the guy who declines to have his cavities filled because he just doesn’t feel like he needs to.  There’s also the very successful guy, who comes in at the behest of his boss and coworkers, because his dental health has become so repugnant that his breath has become offensive.   Eeew.

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