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by Jess Walter

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-06-191604-5
Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Unemployed suburban dad teetering on the brink comes up with a high-risk, recession-proof way to get out of debt.

The American Dream, for former newspaper journalist and failed Web entrepreneur Matt Prior, is not living up to its hype. Broke after sinking his savings into, a website catering to his twin passions for financial advice and free-verse poetry, he owes more on his house than it’s worth and has to contend with the knowledge that his sexy wife Lisa is carrying on a virtual affair with her high-school boyfriend Chuck, with whom she reconnected on Facebook. Private-school tuition for his two young sons and the care for his elderly dementia-addled father add to his woes. But as dire as it looks—and sardonic Matt is fully aware of the role he has played in his personal ruin—opportunity emerges in the unlikeliest of places. He meets a couple of local youths at his neighborhood 7-Eleven and, after a surreal evening spent smoking really good marijuana with them, realizes that some businesses are most definitely not hurting in this troubled economy. So he decides to become a 46-year-old pot dealer, selling to other middle-aged, middle-class types. Through his new friends he gets hooked up with a local grow operation called “Weedland” and finds there is definitely a clientele for his high-quality product, which he vows he will only sell until he gets solvent again. Nothing, of course, goes according to plan, and Matt gets to see any remaining black-and-white notions he ever had get obliterated—for his own good. Walter’s bitterly funny follow-up to The Zero (2006) could not be more topical in its depiction of a leveraged to-the-hilt culture run amuck, and wiseass Matt makes for a distinctly flawed Everyman running out of chances.

Midlife crisis farce laced with some larger truths about how we live now.