Baby’s not a problem. It’s his stay-at-home dad who can’t help getting into trouble in this first novel.
While his wife, Shelley, a Canadian nutritionist and Ph.D. candidate, works at a spinal-cord clinic, Phil spends his days with their 1-year-old, Henry. He also hangs out with his neighbor Adam, who has a Mexican wife, Maribel, and a 4-year-old boy. Adam is a narcissistic gasbag who owns two copy stores and is having sex with a young employee; Phil hears them through the vent. As passive as they come, he’s attracted to Adam’s recklessness (“my favorite asshole”). One night, Phil is sitting alone in Adam’s car, listening to rap, belting out the N-word, oblivious to their dicey, racially mixed Chicago neighborhood. It’s hard not to feel this white boy is too stupid to live, and indeed he has a close call when a pistol-packing Latino surprises him, making him drive to an ATM before stealing the car. Soon afterward, Maribel, sick of Adam’s philandering, leaves for Mexico with their son, and Adam disappears. The new neighbors, Hugo and Melanie, have an open relationship, so Phil, with the baby close by, fools around with her. Monkey hear, monkey do. And then, guess what? Shelley follows Maribel’s lead and moves back to Canada with the baby; not only has Phil been cheating, he's done some really dumb stuff at the clinic, jeopardizing her job. Does Shearer mean us to accept Phil as a bumbling but ultimately lovable naif? Possibly, but in fact he’s just a jerk in thrall to a lowlife. For as his perceptive sister tells him, “you wish you were this Adam guy.” There are a few more contrived episodes (the cops have found Adam’s car, a bullet-riddled body inside, and bring Phil in for questioning), but they don’t lead anywhere.
A dispiriting ramble with two unsympathetic losers.