I started reading this book in 2003 or so when it first came out and it felt like a big huge book that became too much to take on at the time. I realize now that the story is much smaller, and part of that bigness probably comes from the kind of expansive and misleading opening section, and the fact that I was looking through a long view of my future life and not seeing a lot of familiarity with the first few chapters.
I am not a divorced dad in a small town, but I am close to the age of a lot of American novels about them, and I’ve been through a lot of relationships, and one thing I’ve really thought about is how lucky I was to never get married to anybody I’ve been with. Whether they were wrong for me, I was wrong for them, or we were wrong for each other, there’s something incredibly fortunate about our not ruining or damaging each other’s lives too terribly much in the long run.
So this novel flipped for me about halfway through where from something interesting and engaging to something I thought was near brilliant in its execution. That moment was worth the length (it’s not even that long) and my initial averring the kind of barely out of the 1990s novel this is. The writing is good and very funny, and there’s some real sympathy and honesty here. I think that it’s a good interrogation of American white masculinity without being incredibly caustic or being incredibly sympathetic. It takes it as it is and finds something real about it.