I think you can tell a lot about a person based upon what kind of books they give as gifts. The world is made up of the following types of book gifters:
- Those who just walk blindly into a bookstore or onto Amazon to buy a last minute gift, not quite sure if what they bought is good or not, or if you’ll like it or not, but it looked popular or shiny.
- Those who try to get everyone to read their favorite book, even if they don’t think you’ll really like it.
- Those who really think about what they know about you as a person, and what they think you might enjoy.
I was lucky enough to get a book in the mail this year from a friend who is a #3 (yay for #3, clearly the best of the bunch). She sent me a book that she loved, but more importantly, that she thought I would appreciate as well. I hadn’t ever heard of it, and didn’t find out anything about it before I started it, but I trusted her judgment.
And. WOW. This book is everything: A dark satire, at time hilarious, but also, sometimes really sad. A story about family being who you choose, not who you are born to be with. A bitter takedown of the East Coast elite. A brief history of Richard Nixon. A scathing indictment of the treatment of the mentally ill in this country. And most importantly, a book about finding one’s place in the world, maybe in the last place you ever expected.
When I tell you this book is everything, I’m serious. This book has a subplot about swingers groups meeting after hours via sign-up-genius in laser tag storefronts in Westchester County. It has an international arms deal being broken up with the promise of a car full of chocolate halvah. It had tens of thousands of dollars hidden in a suburban backyard in ammunition shells. It made me want to go on a safari. It also made me want to get another kitten. All the things.
A super quick overview of the story, in which a middle-aged man’s life completely changes between two Thanksgivings:
Harold Silver is a professor of American History, and he specializes on Nixon. He and his wife spend Thanksgiving at his horrible brother George’s house, and Harold wonders why its fair that George is so awful, but has everything: the beautiful house, the powerful job, the beautiful wife, the dog, the kids. And then George’s wife, Jane, kisses Harold in the kitchen.
This random event is followed by some truly awful acts of violence, and in a matter of weeks, Harold finds himself divorced, living in his brother’s house, and raising his niece and nephew. Harold has a brand new life, and seemingly, the opportunity to become a new man.
I’ll be honest, it was slow going for me in the beginning. If anyone else in the world had given me this book, I might have put it down and conveniently forgotten about it. But I kept going…a little bit here, and little bit there (which, seeing that there aren’t any chapters, was hard!). And then about 300 pages in, I could not put this thing down. I needed to know what was going to happen to all of these people that I didn’t even know about a few days ago. I needed to make sure they would all be ok. I am so glad I kept at it, so I could find out for myself how it all came together.
So, thanks, Annie. Thanks for thinking of me and for thinking I might like this book. I really did.
For CBR12bingo: Orange