A woozy debut tale of one man's midlife crisis. The circumstances here are so clichÇd that initially this has the flavor of a satire: Ray and his wife lost their first child years ago. Ray is having an affair (his first) with a woman from work named Julia. Ray leaves his wife, Betsy, and his two young sons abruptly at the outset (he doesn't know what he wants, just that he is vaguely unhappy). The boys cry and don't want him to go. When Ray finally visits a therapist and starts talking, he is struck by ``how much this story was like a tawdry romance novel.'' That's true, except for the male protagonist and the not particularly happy ending. A lot of the talk about sex reads like male fantasy, or at least insensitivity. The day that Ray tells his wife that he is leaving, she performs oral sex on him for the first time (after nine years of marriage), then Ray recalls how she had once confessed to him that she had never had an orgasm, and today he still doesn't know whether she ever has. Similarly, after pages and pages of Ray and Julia living together and vacationing together and frolicking, the reader learns that ``Julia did not come when they made love, she rarely had.'' Presumably, just pleasing Ray was enough. There is something buried here about men and their inability to express themselves, but this book is afflicted by that same problem. Ray's life is examined earnestly, but myriad observations like ``He had always confused doing the right thing with causing no pain'' only amount to navel-gazing. At the close of the novel, it is not much clearer why Ray—who keeps a stiff upper lip—has left his wife or what might possibly satisfy him. For the Iron John crowd only.
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