Wednesday, April 6, 2016


Gen and Eric (GenEric?) have a dinner party, but one guest barricades himself in the guest suite and refuses to leave.  Actually, Gen and Eric had never even met Miles before that night, when he came along with Mark to the dinner party.  This novel has four sections, each of which is about someone tangentially connected to Miles, so that we can gain some sense of who he is.  First is Anna Hardie, nicknamed Anna K., to sound like “anarchy,” who met Miles many years ago as a teenager.  Gen finds Anna’s email address in Miles’s phone and begs her to come see if she can persuade Miles to come out.  The next section is Mark’s, who also did not know Miles well but met him at the theatre and casually asked him to join him at the dinner party.  Third is May Young, an elderly woman whose connection to Miles I’ll let you find out for yourself.  Finally, there’s 10-year-old Brooke who tagged along with her parents to the dinner party.  Brooke is precocious, to say the least, sparring with her parents over puns and endlessly intrigued by new vocabulary words, such as “metaphorically.”  She’s currently reading The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad, which I personally found incredibly dense.  The author’s word gymnastics are delightful, and I’m sorry that I won’t remember most of them.  I’m also bummed that I didn’t get all of the puns.  In any case, the book was unusual but still a pleasure to read, with very real and likeable characters.   The wordplay, however, is extraordinary, and I never felt that it was excessive.  Sometimes when I read really clever stuff, I get the sense that the author is showing off, but in this case, so much of it comes out of the mouth of a 10-year-old that it seems more playful than erudite.  And if the ending leaves you scratching your head, go back and reread the prologue.  

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