PGA golfer Charlie Matthias drops out of the circuit and moves back to his hometown in this novel about his dysfunctional family and his own life crisis.
It’s Christmastime, and 33-year-old Charlie Matthias is back living at his childhood home in an affluent Chicago suburb. He just left the PGA circuit, where he’d made money and reached midlevel success. Now, he’s questioning his life. He kicked his cocaine problem two years ago, but his wife, hometown beauty Kathleen, finally divorced him and married a rich lawyer; they just had a child. Charlie feels disconnected from his family, which includes his golf-fanatic father, who pushed Charlie into his pro career; his subservient mother, who allows herself to be ruled by Charlie’s class-conscious father; and his twin, anorexic sisters, who live together, with one of them, newly pregnant, married to crass businessman Nip. Charlie’s most drawn to his feisty grandmother, however. His sense of isolation changes when, swerving and crying while driving through Chicago, he meets up again with Erica Denner, a childhood classmate whose family now owns and lives in an apartment building in a German neighborhood. He moves into the building and is exposed to Erica’s bohemian world. They get involved, but then events unfold—with his grandmother, his father, his agent and, most significantly, Kathleen—to complicate his possible new life course. Author Wittmann effectively captures Charlie’s somewhat privileged angst, with the depiction of golf fever at the country club being at times especially amusing. Surprisingly, however, Charlie’s own relationship with the game remains murky, despite emphasis on the fact that he shares a birthday with fellow (and real-life) late bloomer Phil Mickelson. Also featured are a couple of broad strokes in plot development, including a rather extreme incident bringing Kathleen back into the picture and a sexual escapade that seems out of sync for sardonic but sensitive Charlie. Still, Wittmann admirably doesn’t “solve” all of Charlie’s problems, instead making the point that sometimes in life, you simply play through.
A colorful, nuanced novel about a golfer, his family and his choices.