A recently disgraced online life coach (ish) influencer and her longtime childhood friend start a cult aimed at teaching men how to rehabilitate themselves from a full life being immersed in toxic masculinity. The world is our world, except recently, among other things, ‘man hordes’ have begin to spontaneously form where unquestioned tropes of manhood get played out by catatonic men. Whether it’s chopping wood, saving kittens, hurling bricks through windows, or ritualistically killing themselves, the hordes play out male-ascribed tropes en masse. That’s just our window-dressing though. The cult will try to fix that. Or maybe it’s Dyson’s (our narrator’s childhood friend and inspiration for her lifestyle blog) revenge fantasy, where he gets to punish men who fall into categories of disappointment (military man, dead beat dad, etc) for the crimes of his own father. Who knows? All the while Sasha is being recruited by a mysterious tech group who also wants to rid the world of toxic behavior.
There are times in this novel where the satire is way too on the nose for me, and those are in little interstitial moments entitled “What the Men Need to Hear”, where little epigrams of ideas are presented to the men in order to help them unlearn bad behaviors and ideas. These were by far the weakest part of the book, because, they were almost the best. They end up being true, more or less, but also platitudinous to a lot of online spaces. It’s an odd moment of misstep in the novel where the audience for the book is at odds for the audience of these tropes. There’s got be a better way to do this part. In fact, using the fact that the “program” in the book is stolen directly from “For Dummies” books and the like, I think a little nod to online message boards where the same list of toxic manhood tropes get bandied about would work equally well. Anyway, it’s a small part of the book.
I’d have to think a little more about the DAM group satire as well. It’s very similar to the satire at the heart Dave Eggers’s The Circle, but in an opposite direction. I wouldn’t know if this is on purpose or not — an homage, a parody, a riff — but it certainly felt connected.