This picaresque tale follows Easton McNeil, a short, baby-faced man who’s missing half his left leg. Readers first meet him as a child, bouncing between foster homes after he was taken from his parents due to their addictions and criminal pursuits. Easton overcomes a series of early setbacks, including the loss of his leg, before he graduates college and purchases a small home with money he made by selling a website he created. He strikes up a friendship with a neighborhood girl named Liberty whose family struggles parallel his own. Easton, who has an unexpectedly strong paternal instinct, becomes a kind of surrogate father to the girl even though her manipulative mother tries to poison their relationship. Later, Easton works for a well-known radio shock jock, takes an extended, meandering road trip from coast to coast, and begins his first true romance in his late 30s. The plot is episodic to a fault, but readers will remain engaged thanks to Devin’s deft characterizations. She displays a remarkable knack for developing pathos in even minor characters—and Easton’s curiosity and wanderlust bring him into contact with many. Easton himself proves to be more complex and less saccharine-sweet than he initially appears. The novel’s greatest accomplishment, however, is the way it balances sentimentality with misanthropy: Most of the characters prove to be duplicitous, base and almost unbearably selfish, but Devin’s approach doesn’t wallow in their faults, instead focusing on small, potent moments of connection and redemption. At times, the novel risks becoming overly sentimental, particularly during the late romance, but it never does so thanks to the author’s refusal to take the story down obvious paths. She develops characters that readers will care about and places them in a fantastical story that feels entirely real and possible.
A strong first novel from an author with potential.