A bizarre case of identity theft forces a dentist to question his beliefs in this funny, thought-provoking return to form by Ferris (The Unnamed, 2010, etc.).
In 2011, Paul O’Rourke has a thriving practice on Manhattan’s Park Avenue and a throbbing sense that things could be a lot better. His nights are troubled by insomnia and a bed cooled by a recent breakup. His days feature patients who don’t floss and three staffers—including his ex—who unsettle him in their own curious ways. As the novel opens, Paul’s world quickly goes from bad to weird, and it’s clear that Ferris is back in the riff-rich, seriocomic territory of his first novel, Then We Came to the End (2007). A confirmed atheist who sustains a ritualistic devotion to the Boston Red Sox, Paul’s romances have exposed him to the tempting fervor and trappings of Catholicism and Judaism. Still, he resists fiercely when a website, a Facebook page and blogging comments mysteriously emerge in his name and he discovers that the man behind them fronts a quasi-Jewish sect founded on the value of doubt: "Behold, make thine heart hallowed by doubt; for God, if God, only God may know." With almost Pynchon-esque complexity, Ferris melds conspiracy and questions of faith in an entertaining way, although his irreverence and crudity in places may offend some readers. Full of life’s rough edges, the book resists a neat conclusion, favoring instead a simple scene that is comic perfection—an ending far sweeter than the Red Sox had that year.
Strangely astray in The Unnamed, Ferris is back on track here. Smart, sad, hilarious and eloquent, this shows a writer at the top of his game and surpassing the promise of his celebrated debut.