Most helpful positive review
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
We aren't who we think we are!
on November 14, 2010
Yet another decent novel by Bergen on the subject of the male mid-life crisis. In this story the writer handles the often desperate life of a washed-up prominent columnist, Morris Shutt, with a healthy dollop of introspection, acerbity, and fond regard. Morris has a problem and, it is so complex and dumb-founded that for a good part of the novel, the reader finds him haplessly searching in many directions for the ever-elusive answer as to why bad things often happen to seemingly good people. Shutt is cast as a genuinely caring person, whether through the helpful advice and charity he tenders his readership or the unfortunate stranger. So where have things gone so terribly wrong for the man? Well, like Job of old, he has lost his son, Martin, in combat in Afghanistan; his marriage of twenty years or so is on the rocks; and his writing has gone flat. In other words, the world of Shutt is disintegrating before his very eyes and he doesn't know how to stop it. All the things Shutt thought were fixtures in his life are disappearing faster than the morning dew. So what is the solution? This is where the novel took off for me. For the next couple of hundred pages, Shutt seeks happiness and fulfillment from an eclectic number of places: an American woman who has become infatuated with his column; the wisdom of the great philosophers; a male-therapy group; a prostitute; his estranged daughter; his highly successful but often overbearing wife, and his sanctimonious brother. The answers he gets from them all as to why he has become so stranded are anything but helpful. They are, in fact, pulling him in many different directions with no big purpose in mind but to be caught up in someone else's problems. Bergen, the good author, does not take us into this personal maelstrom without showing us a way out, and it isn't by the back door. I awarded this book a four-star rating because it kept my attention and offered a few humorous moments in what could have easily been just another sad and dreary tale of mid-life inadequacy. To fully appreciate the power of redemption in this novel, the reader might want to read Saul Bellow's "Humboldt's Gift".