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THE BOYS by Katie Hafner


by Katie Hafner

Pub Date: July 12th, 2022
ISBN: 978-1-954118-05-8
Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

A quirky couple’s decision to foster 8-year-old twins ends up driving them apart.

With his extreme introversion and severe anxiety issues, Ethan Fawcett is mostly relieved when lockdown hits. After all, he's “wired for quarantine.” “If Barb hadn’t come along,” he muses, “...I’d have shuffled my way straight into a solitary middle age.” But she did, and she thinks he's adorable—so by the time Covid shows up, they've been happily married for years. Ethan is a genius engineering geek; Barb is a research psychologist who studies loneliness among the elderly. Once lockdown hits and social isolation becomes a problem affecting millions, this expertise rockets her to media stardom. Ethan, at that point, is fully booked taking care of Tommy and Sam, a pair of Russian orphans Barb brought home on a whim in 2019. The boys were supposed to give the couple a chance to practice parenthood before they launched into what they had just learned was not going to be the old-fashioned, easy way of making babies. Ethan falls head over heels for the boys, which unlocks a level of manic anxiety and vigilance in him that makes Barb’s life unbearable. Even as she is repelled, she thinks she understands. Ethan’s parents died in an accident on vacation when they were 38. That birthday is coming for him “like a heat-seeking missile.” There's a lot to love in this book—every corner of it is filled with clever invention and loopy charm of the Kevin Wilson variety, and suspense is created by a growing pile of unanswered questions that will keep you flying through it to the end. What the heck did those boys do in Italy that caused the tour operator to disinvite the family from all future expeditions? Why does Barb go completely sour on the boys, to the point that Ethan must choose between her and them? It turns out everything revolves around a huge, nearly unforeseeable (though in retrospect, carefully seeded) plot twist.

Like a soup that is either wrecked or nailed by one crazy ingredient—and you don’t know what it is till your bowl is empty.