Rapp (The Year of Endless Sorrows, 2006, etc.) brings dark humor and honesty to a story of death, divorce and disappearance.
We meet 30-something Francis Falbo at the onset of his agoraphobia. He hasn't left the house in nearly a month, has been wearing the same bathrobe for nine days and has developed a “real anxiety” that his beard might smell “gamey, like wet squirrel.” Francis writes the pages we read in the form of a personal manuscript not intended for an audience. Nonetheless, he's compelled to explain how he came to this sorry state. His mother, we learn, has died, his wife has left him for a slightly younger man with a “chiseled, perfect jaw line,” and his once-promising rock band, the Third Policeman, has not so much dissolved as spectacularly imploded in one of the novel’s more ridiculous scenes wherein the bassist comes out as gay and the drummer comes out as a “passionate homophobe, a terrible friend, and…a hairy emotional Nazi.” Rather than deal with his paralysis and personal crises, Francis immerses himself in his duties as a landlord and follows the lives of the eccentric tenants sharing his childhood home through one interminable Midwestern winter. At his most affecting, Francis is insightful and concise in his assessments of himself and others. When he sees his own reflection, he is relieved to look “mostly sad....Sad in the same way that weather can be sad.” Elsewhere, however, his dramatic shifts toward the absurd may thrust a reader emotionally off balance. Likewise, slapstick accounts of Francis’ many hang-ups—including the size and color of his penis—may stretch a reader’s patience and take away from the otherwise profound account of “all the things we must survive.”
An intimate, frustrating account of a man failing to deal with his failure.