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The president is now not only black but also Jewish, and the tea partiers are having fits.

Well, not quite: Like Sammy Davis Jr., Luke Cooper wasn’t entirely born with those credentials, and the presidential election is still three years off when we meet him. Governor Cooper is one of the youngest state executives in the nation, and, as Goff writes by way of introduction, “widely recognized as a rising national star in the Democratic Party.” His wife Laura—try not to think of General Hospital—hates politics but is willing to support Luke as he follows his bliss, even willing to try to keep up with his sartorial splendor, for Luke knows how to rock an Armani suit. Although he’s been dubbed “the GQ Candidate,” he’s an amateur compared to some of the folks in his moneyed circle, powerful lawyers and hedge-fund managers who broker a dozen deals before breakfast and live lives befitting a Roman emperor. All of these things have political consequences; one of his confidants, for instance, figures in the news from time to time in articles “claiming that he had used his relationship with the governor as leverage for business opportunities,” with said confidant himself proclaiming, “The gov and I are like family. After all he wouldn’t be governor without me so you have nothing to worry about.” It’s anyone’s guess whether the author or the confidant is the one guilty of crimes against the English language, but this novel is flat and uninvolving, its characters shallow; what isn’t transparently borrowed from a certain real-life well-dressed president of color (hey, look, there’s Rahm Emanuel!) drifts by unremarkably. Goff's imagining of an ugly primary campaign in which mud is flung and bedclothes slung could have come from the headlines, too, while the stuff requiring imagination seems an afterthought. 

The novel ends on a cliffhanger—all to the good, except it presupposes that the reader will have slogged through to the end of this overlong, unrewarding debut.

Pub Date: July 5th, 2011
ISBN: 978-1-4391-5872-2
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Atria
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 2011


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