A midlife crisis takes a handful of surreal turns in Joshua Mohr’s (Damascas, 2011, etc.) latest novel.
Bob Coffen has two kids, a suburban home, an athlete wife whom he adores and a successful career building violent video games. But as his marriage begins to crumble, Bob’s life becomes unhinged in sometimes amusing, sometimes poignant ways. The story opens on a bad day for Bob: He’s been insulted by his boss and nearly run over by his neighbor, Schumann, a macho type who’s never gotten over his football-hero past. Then, his wife, Jane, drags him to a marital seminar held by magician Bjorn the Bereft, whose conjuring tricks literally put Bob’s marriage on thin ice. When Jane throws him out of the house, Bob enlists Schumann as his coach and begins a quest to pull himself together. He first bonds with Tilda, a waitress at his favorite fast-food joint who has a profitable sideline doing phone sex through the takeout intercom. His other new friend is Ace, a janitor at his company who moonlights in a Kiss tribute band that sings everything in French, hence their name, French Kiss. While Bob designs a bestiality-themed game, Jane trains to set a world record for treading water. Mohr has a clever imagination, and this book's elaborate jokes sometimes overdo the cleverness: Schumann, who speaks entirely in football-coach lingo, can be too much of a cartoon. But the story also hinges on some universal issues, namely, Bob’s struggles to rekindle his romance, recapture his creativity and regain control of his life.
To the book’s credit, Mohr never loses the story’s emotional heart.