CITIES OF THE COMMON MAN by Ben Hasskamp

CITIES OF THE COMMON MAN

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A road novel from debut author Hasskamp about an out-of-work chef on the verge of turning 30.

Billy MacPherson is sitting in the Portland, Oregon, home where he grew up when he hears about his inheritance from his recently deceased father. Once the news sinks in, he throws a tantrum, because while Billy’s obnoxious relatives receive huge sums of money, Billy gets a 1981 DeLorean DMC-12 automobile. That the DeLorean is in pristine condition doesn’t comfort Billy, who simply sees it as another slap in the face. Recently, he saw his restaurant in New York City go out of business; then, unable to pay the rent on his apartment, he found himself evicted. Add into the mix the presence of Billy’s unstable ex-fiancee, Allison, and it seems like he might as well drive the DeLorean into the Willamette River. But he chooses instead to take the Back to the Future–esque car to visit old friends from culinary school. His trip winds up stretching from Portland to Los Angeles and includes copious amounts of food, vomit, and sexual derangement. The adventure is part Kitchen Confidential, part It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, with plenty of observations on California thrown in (as in a description of a “strange and beautiful” town: “There was an evenness to Cloverdale. The people were familiar, the businesses were familiar, the sights, sounds, and smells were familiar”). It’s a creative spin on the coming-of-age road-trip tale, even if certain bawdy moments can be startling: readers are not only treated to a scene of Billy masturbating in a treehouse but also to his friend’s mother’s graphic description of her son’s conception. The portions explaining the restaurant industry seem melodramatic at times (“Accolades mean nothing when you’re working the line”), although they do give the book a distinct voice; there are countless stories about young men at crossroads in life, but how many of those young men know how to handle a “900-degree grill”? Despite the bumpy road he travels, readers will likely want to know where Billy and his DeLorean wind up.

A sometimes-crude but unique and oddly endearing tale of self-discovery.

Pub Date: June 20th, 2017
ISBN: 978-1-5217-8473-0
Page count: 345pp
Publisher: CreateSpace
Program: Kirkus Indie
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