In Cooper’s (Smooth in Meetings, 2014, etc.) novel, an unemployed, middle-aged man with a possible drinking problem must persuade his nonagenarian father to give up driving.
Wriston Wayne, the retired chairman of the Boreal Bancorporation, lives in Florida with his second wife, Cindy. Charlie, his 50-something middle son and a real estate expert, has been unexpectedly laid off from TBF Bank in New York City. While he and his wife, Jane, are visiting Wriston and Cindy, the older man loses control of his Cadillac in the parking garage of their condo building. Charlie fears that a serious accident could be in Wriston’s future, but running errands in the car is one of the few deep pleasures that the old man has left. The dynamic between the father and son is thrown into stark relief: Wriston loves Charlie, but he’s disappointed that he didn’t make it to the top of the heap in his chosen field (“Charlie never emerged from the pack,” he reflects). Charlie, meanwhile, agonizes over whether to stop Wriston from driving, but it’s taken out of his hands when the elderly man’s health declines precipitously in a matter of weeks. Meanwhile, Charlie’s late-night wine drinking persists. The focus and interiority of this novel are truly wonderful, and Cooper takes his time exploring what goes through his characters’ minds—principally Charlie’s, but also Wriston’s as he carefully navigates his beloved Caddy from his home to the Publix supermarket. Cooper has the old man note every turn and every lane change; it should be maddeningly boring, but instead, it gives readers a painful appreciation of a person who knows that he must be careful because his freedom is so tenuous. Interestingly, readers later get the same view of Charlie running errands himself as he wrestles with painful issues regarding his dad.
A poignant exploration of the complicated dynamic of fathers and sons.