Indie rock musician and poet Pernice (Meat Is Murder, 2003) applies his life experience to a funny, nimble novel about an average Joe trying to surmount his own nature.
The unnamed narrator is a UMass grad with a gift for words but little ambition. Lacking direction, he stumbles into a three-year gig working as a waiter in Amherst, where he encounters the great disaster of his life. “When I met Jocelyn I knew within minutes I was going to either marry her or completely destroy my life,” he confesses. “It never occurred to me that both things could happen.” While his protagonist flashes back often (and painfully) to this fiery affair, the author keeps his story stylishly grounded in the present day. By the time we catch up, the 25-year-old vagabond has become a struggling musician in Brooklyn, married Josie in a fever of passion and fled their doomed, drug-addled relationship the same day. Licking his wounds, he returns to Cape Cod, where he crashes with his recently abandoned brother-in-law James and two-year-old nephew Roy. Pernice’s prose has much the same audacity as another musician-turned-writer, Jim Carroll. The narrator’s profane, sharply honed observations resonate with self-deprecating humor, yet they also generate a surprising amount of empathy for this broken hero. As he reluctantly looks after Roy and launches a tenuous relationship with a local filmmaker, he has terrific flashes of self-awareness, discovering he’s the proverbial man hitting himself with the hammer for the dumbest reason: “Because it feels so good when I stop.”
An inspired, gutsy piece of work that promises more good things to come.