In the 2016 winner of the Most Thinly Veiled Memoir award,
Greg Olear Josh Lansky spends a really long day parenting his two young kids, Roland and Maude. Yes, Maude. And Roland. There’s your first sign that this guy is going to be kind of insufferable.
He lives in an extremely detailed city called New Paltz, a yuppie paradise so thoroughly described that there’s no way the author doesn’t live there. Check the dust jacket, yep. New Paltz, NY. Okay, well, that’s fine. His two children have such oddly specific quirks that it got kind of distracting how much these kids had to be his real life kids. I don’t know why it bugged me so much but it did. I found an interview with the author online in which he acknowledged that the kids really are completely his kids, which still kind of irritated me but I tried to ignore it since at least he acknowledged it. I’m not even going to address his hair or attire or general persona in the accompanying pictures because that would be rude, but let’s just say he strikes me as a certain kind of guy. Moving on.
Greg Olear Josh Lansky (I’m sorry, I can’t stop, help me) goes to a playdate and someone tells him oh hey btw I think your wife is cheating on you. (It’s not a spoiler, it happens in the first chapter.) But everyone is so preoccupied by all those rascally kids that he doesn’t really get around to asking her to expand on that for like twelve more hours. I’m sorry, what now? As a playdate veteran myself, I know how the conversations can trail off as meltdowns and crises emerge, but no.
That’s really all I can say about the plot without spoiling the one somewhat puzzling plot twist. The story unfolds over one day, and the overwhelming majority of it is just the narrator’s inner monologue, which was what he was going for. I wanted to love this book. I love contemporary fiction. I have kids. I love parenting humor and I’m definitely down for something with a little more edge than Jim Gaffigan, bless his heart. But Greg Olear’s writing, although not bad and definitely sometimes funny, is constantly toeing the line of insufferable, pretentious, whiny, and trying too hard to be relatable. So relatable you guys! Kids are so great but sometimes it’s hard and tedious and disgusting and humiliating and lame and totes emasculating, ya know? Ugh. And hey did you know dads still think about sex? Moms too! So edgy!
It was a hate read by like the fifth page but then halfway through I kinda came along to halfway liking it. It had its moments, but overall the author just rubbed me wrong.