In Perlstein’s (Flight of the Spumonis, 2015, etc.) latest novel, a frumpy, overwrought, 30-something art curator is transformed, as if by magic, into the handsome man that he always wanted to be.
The first few chapters of this book offer a glimpse into the mind of the titular Adonis, who’s supremely unhappy with his life. He mopes in his tiny studio apartment, where his depression and anxiety blur fantasy and reality. One lonely night, for example, he imagines that the pigeons on his windowsill are mocking him. But is he imagining this? The text leaves readers wondering. When Adonis awakens one day as a taller, leaner, more masculine version of himself—with no hint as to how the change happened—he suddenly gets positive attention from women, co-workers, and even strangers. His new plight is that he now feels as disconnected from his physical self as he does from people around him, except for one homeless woman named Anna. As an art-forgery scandal threatens to overtake the museum where he works, Adonis fears that tragedy has befallen Anna, and his world implodes. Readers will be left with some unanswered questions after the story ends. Indeed, they’ll face an odd plight of their own as they try to untangle this unusual novel that’s part fantasy, part parable. Perlstein’s quirky prose has Adonis seeing the world through a series of elaborate similes. His mother and brother trample obstacles in life, for instance, “like bull elephants in heat,” and a woman emerges from a car “like an old-time striptease dancer popping up out of a giant birthday cake.” The first few chapters of the book so thoroughly immerse readers in Adonis’ pain and linguistic oddities, in fact, that they’re discomforting to read. There are occasional typographical errors in the text, however, and the frequent repetition of characters’ full names, particularly during a scene at an office staff meeting, may also pull readers out of the story.
A brain-twisting but often memorable tale.