A fictional memoir focuses on a jet-setting lothario, whose extended residence in Asia transforms his life.
The third novel by Houts (The Stock Market Flea, 2014, etc.) tells the story of Heath, a retired executive reflecting on his life of indulgence and world travel. The narrative features short chapters, divided by age and headed with the title of a song that encapsulates the mood or tenor of each episode. The tale unfolds in a nonlinear fashion, jumping between youth and middle age, though mostly exploring the period from the author’s late 20s to early 40s. A late bloomer traumatized by a family tragedy, Heath develops a knack for seducing women during his college years, which he relies on for much of his adulthood. He works as an engineer, and later transitions to a sales role that allows him to travel all over the world, living first in Hawaii, then Manila, and later Shanghai. Readers get brief glimpses of his ascent in the international business world, though Heath’s (non-explicit) sexual exploits take center stage. Over time, he reconciles the painful events of his childhood with a more nuanced understanding of Western materialism and the exploitation that it sparks, providing him with a fuller appreciation of life and relationships. The novel benefits from a plainspoken, self-aware writing style and an intriguingly reflexive narrative structure. The author’s attention to detail can make for quite immersive reading, yet it takes a bit too long to develop sympathy for Heath, who’s openly self-absorbed yet somehow, inexplicably, irresistible. His many loves all blend together, with little distinguishing one from the other, save hair color and breast size. As such, Heath’s account of his robust love life comes off as boastful more often than contrite. Still, some readers will gravitate toward Heath, who flits about the globe to find a willing beauty (or several) in every port. Others, though, may find his detached and narcissistic treatment of romantic conquests off-putting and his redemption halfhearted.
An immersive, if occasionally rudderless, journey through the memories of an international playboy.