The residents of a small town in the Berkshires have their world overturned by a billionaire in their midst.
This is a novel with political motives, so much so that it recalls The Fountainhead, except Dee (A Thousand Pardons, 2013, etc.) is a better writer than Ayn Rand by several orders of magnitude, and his point seems to be virtually the opposite of hers. The drama begins on Sept. 11, 2001, when Mark Firth, visiting New York from Howland, Massachusetts, unhappily learns that his meeting with a lawyer has been cancelled. This attorney is representing the plaintiffs in a class-action suit against a con-artist financial adviser who stole their money—in Firth's case, his entire savings. He’s not the only Howland resident who will be struggling in the coming months. Though relief over his safe return smooths things over for a while, Mark’s wife is far from happy in either her marriage or her job, working as a teacher’s aide at a private school so her daughter can get reduced tuition. His brother, Gerry, is fired from Century 21 for an indiscretion; their sister, Candace, is furious at both of them for not helping out with their decrepit parents, and her day job is not on solid ground either. The town is feeling the pinch as well, but the last thing strapped residents want is another tax hike. When their First Selectman unexpectedly dies, Philip Hadi steps into the breach. The Hadis used to be summer people, but in the wake of 9/11 they moved to the country full time, first installing a set of security cameras. Hadi’s solution to Howland’s troubles begins with cutting government to the bare essentials; according to him, past tax increases were only necessary to feed the bureaucracy itself. If there's a real need for something they can’t afford—why, he’ll just pay for it. What happens to the citizens of Howland after that plays both as political allegory and kaleidoscopic character study.
An absorbing panorama of small-town life and a study of democracy in miniature, with both the people and their polity facing real and particular contemporary pressures.