Meet Walter and Alice. They’re screwed.
Perry (This Is Just Exactly Like You, 2010) follows up his poignant debut novel about a father and his autistic son with a lighter novel about impending fatherhood, Hiaasen-ian Floridians and the way life carries us forward whether we want it to or not. Walter and Alice used to have a fine life in North Carolina, stable enough that they began to tiptoe toward the idea of having children. “Yes, I told her, yes, which was not quite a lie: I could easily enough see us having a child, or children. I imagined we’d keep them fed and watered, that we’d find ways not to kill them, or ourselves,” Walter muses. And then life carries them forward: Walter loses his job and Alice quits hers, and they move 500 miles south to a remote vacation condo south of Jacksonville owned by Alice’s sister, Carolyn. Walter is soon drawn into working for Carolyn’s husband, Mid, whose considerable wealth comes from owning things: real estate, sea kayak rentals, umbrella shops, a pizza place—all the strange accoutrements that adorn the beach to leech money away from tourists. Walter is talked into running the ice machine empire while he and Alice fumble their way through a difficult pregnancy. This is an interesting book with a slightly offbeat tone. Walter, who tells the story, makes for an amusing worrywart whose fish-out-of-water state becomes more and more obvious as Mid gets arrested and Walter begins to realize that he’s become attached to a serious criminal. Even Mid feels bad: “I had something else pictured. Something calmer. Fewer police, fewer wayward children, you know?” There are some madcap elements here that recall the novels of Tim Dorsey or Laurence Shames, but the core story of Walter’s family makes the enterprise feel closer to an Alexander Payne jaunt than anything else.
A funny, frenzied tale of a terrified man plummeting helplessly into his own adulthood.