A tragic event on the Golden Gate Bridge brings together a bunch of disparate people, several of whom are reeling from earlier trauma.
After a surreal prelude in which a possibly unhinged character discusses the concept of “existential mathematics,” this novel segues to an event in San Francisco that leaves several people dead. Witnessing this with his father is Jake, a teenager whose recording quickly goes viral. Meanwhile, in Nevada, a young woman named Sara discovers that a sex tape she made with her boyfriend has also been made public. Sara and Jake are among the wounded characters populating Mohr’s novel, many of whom are dealing with the fallout of their actions and the actions of others. Kathleen, a caricaturist, observes early on that “we are defined by our worst features. We are those mistakes.” It’s an observation that both sums up the online world that gradually plays a larger role in the different characters’ movements and describes the situations many in the book are seeking to overcome. Kathleen’s son, Rodney, has difficulty communicating verbally as a result of an accident; it’s a larger-scale version of what nearly everyone present must grapple with over the course of the novel. There’s one morally dubious character in the mix whose story seems less well-developed than the rest; while cloaking him in mystery is understandable, he at times seems more plot device than character, especially in contrast to the more realistically flawed people he shares pages with. Mohr’s portrayal of a rapidly gentrifying San Francisco rings true: a bartender responds to one lament with, “We all ruin the neighborhood when we first come in.” And there’s a fine gag involving Google Glass to boot.
Mohr’s novel builds slowly, and his empathy for the majority of his characters shines through, allowing for a genuinely felt conclusion.