The Palm Springs Man of the Decade suddenly remembers that his gains are ill-gotten and his life built on lies.
"Late in the second decade of the twenty-first century," Harry Tabor is the king of his world, about to be honored for his philanthropy at a fabulous ceremony that's bringing his three adult children back to town to celebrate with him. Unfortunately, a nasty series of recovered memories begins to hit him during a tennis match the day before the ceremony. First, he remembers something he hadn't thought about since 1987—that he left behind a pair of dachshunds named King David and Queen Esther when his family moved from Connecticut to California. He abandoned his dogs? No one can mistake this for anything but the sign of a rotten soul and dark revelations to come. Next (still at the tennis court, by the way), he sees a white-robed cantor. "Who is he to Harry? Why is he seeing him? Or why is he being shown him? The face, it seems familiar, a face he has seen before. But where? He hears daguerreotype; registers that it, too, is reverberating only in his head, spoken in a voice dry and unfamiliar to him." The series-of-questions technique of development is used frequently in Wolas' (The Resurrection of Joan Ashby, 2017) second novel, another big book coming surprisingly close on the heels of her very successful, rather long debut. While that mysterious inner voice is guiding Harry through the process of recalling his sins, his children show up with troubles of their own, though nobody is honest with each other in this supposedly loving family. One has a stalled academic career and a secret job at a hospice; another has an imaginary boyfriend; the third has a non-Jewish wife who is leaving him because he tentatively expressed interest in exploring his faith. Strangely, all the buildup in the first four-fifths of the novel simply fizzles out in the last section. The ponderous writing is the last nail in the coffin. "Her mother was a prominent child psychologist and often said to her children, 'You can do anything you want if you have thought it through and are capable of articulating your reasoning. In other words, so long as you can show your work.' " Would anyone ever say that clunky line once, much less often? Sigh.
The premises are not believable and the exposition, tedious and overblown. A disappointment.