This novel begins with a clear kind of balancing act happening. There’s an ambiguous to vague opening section where a boy named Darren is sitting in a police interrogation room dreaming about breaking the glass that he believes is hiding his interrogators. This story, in all italics, gets told through interstitial chapter in between the main narratives, pushing it to the periphery of the novel. From there we get an opening scene, a teenage boy drunk on a boat on a suburban lake looking for his lost girlfriend, who he’s convinced is missing or dead. This is revealed to be a paranoiac reaction to his own inebriation and from there we jump to his eradicating the competition at a state debate tournament. Then we get the professional and person history of his father, a reknowned psychology (of The Topeka School) as well as a 2019 chapter by his mother, also a psychologist who is reacting to the series of “The Men” who contact her after she consults on their divorce cases, sending their misplaced misogynistic utterings her way.
The novel moves back and forward through these different stories attempting to give the complete picture of a family not through straight narrative, but through the glimpses of their lives that tell enough. This is novel is a lot like a few other well-known authors, while also being a lot different from them too. There’s some David Foster Wallace here, there’s some Donna Tartt here, and there’s some Jonathan Franzen here as well. But like I said, this is a balancing act, and a successful one….playing within the influential shadows of forebears while also telling the convincing story of a family over multiple decades.