A trip to Greece with a family on the rocks.
Ginder (The People We Hate at the Wedding, 2017, etc.) is back with a speedy follow-up to his last wickedly funny concoction, again sending his characters abroad. Meet the Wright family of Berkeley, California: Husband Dean is a beloved American novelist with a cushy academic job at UC Berkeley; wife Sue Ellen teaches classics; their gay son, Will, 23, is unhappily failing to follow in his father's footsteps, struggling through his college fiction workshops. All are coping with the fallout of Dean's recent adultery (the one they know about, anyway). When Sue Ellen is asked to give a lecture to a tour group on the Greek island of Aegina, where she did her doctoral research, she jumps at the chance for a break. Aegina represents a poignant road not taken in her life, and even though her old flame has since died (too bad, he could have really kicked things up a notch), she is eager to return. But what's this? Dean and Will insist on coming with her. Combining farcical elements with more earnest plotlines, the novel never quite achieves liftoff. Ginder is at his best when he's over the top—a Swedish bottled beverage tastes like "compost, mixed with gull shit and spoiled chocolate milk"; Sue Ellen's lecture, as best her husband can peg it, involves "geriatrics gathering with their walkers at the temple's steps, and Sue Ellen speaking as the sun dipped into the Aegean, and her stopping just in time for everyone to have a glass of cheap chardonnay before Zeus, or Poseidon, or Shiva, or whoever ripped a tear in the space-time continuum and carried them all away to that plush, easily navigable retirement home in the sky." Along with the romantic subplots—which are sad—there are not one but two cases of literary plagiarism in the novel. It must be contagious; it's turning up everywhere.
Reliably entertaining and intelligent, Ginder is an excellent tour guide for both the sunny Greek islands and the darker channels of the human heart.