A successful Manhattan adman believes his family comes first—but commits an unthinkable act against them.
The world in which the events of Katz’s disturbing debut novel unfold is a dangerous place. Mass graves are discovered in Damascus. College students set themselves on fire to protest against their deportations. There are school massacres, hunger strikes, police shootings, a paramilitary presence on the streets. Against this unsettling backdrop of violence and disaster—which doesn’t feel that far removed from American life in 2019—Thomas Martin unspools his dark confession. Thomas is an adman in Manhattan. He spins stories for a living, making “things like death seem clean and manageable—attractive, even.” Thomas’ troubled childhood has provided him with a unique view of emotional disaster and prepared him well for his career. His abusive father was a drunk, his mother a cowering, terrified wreck. His older sister committed suicide, and his younger sisters exist in an extended adolescence, wandering aimlessly through the wreck of the family house on Long Island. But Thomas has built a better life for himself. He fell in love, got married, had a daughter. He’s working on an important account. He’s transformed. He is, he tells us, a good man, one who takes care of his family. But Thomas is not a reliable narrator, and his account slowly unravels as Katz reveals his inner turmoil. And if he’s such a good man, why did he buy that threatening billy club online for “psychological protection”? As she expertly builds a growing sense of dread, Katz creates an unsettling atmosphere of paranoia, fear, and rage, hinting at the catastrophe to come through ominous comparisons to the tragic operas Thomas loves. This is the sort of relentless novel you can’t put down even when you’re afraid to read what happens next.
An unnerving and absorbing exploration of modern masculinity and how the seeds of violence are sown.