UNRELIABLE by Lee Irby

UNRELIABLE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A downtrodden professor returns home for his mother’s wedding. Mayhem ensues.

From the beginning, Edwin Stith makes it clear that he is a liar. Or maybe he isn’t. Or maybe he’s a painfully honest liar. Either way, the title isn’t just there for show. When Eddie goes home to Richmond, Virginia, for his mother’s wedding, he isn’t all that impressed with her fiance, Mead George (who’s only five years Eddie’s senior and hoards firearms), and his kids, son Graves and daughter Gibson. They’re a strange trio, but Eddie does want his mother to be happy. Unfortunately, he’s still brokenhearted from a messy divorce, he may (or may not) have killed someone, and he agonizes over his (maybe) relationship with one of his students, the feisty and fiery Lola LaSalle. Theirs is an interesting setup: since Eddie suffers from erectile dysfunction (which he constantly opines on), Lola sleeps with well-endowed men and documents the hookups in photos, which she texts to Eddie. After reconnecting with his wealthy high school sweetheart, Leigh Rose Wardell (who may be crazy), Eddie considers breaking things off with Lola, but she’s not having it and texts Eddie that she’s on her way to Richmond. Panic follows, and it doesn’t help that Eddie finds himself in the middle of a (possibly) shady arms deal and refereeing Mead’s strange kids. Narrator Eddie, as self-deprecating as he is, still manages to be obnoxious, the over-the-top story threads never really come together, and Irby takes the unreliable narrator trope to absurdist levels. Many literary allusions to Edgar Allan Poe and the like and some interesting tidbits on Richmond and its storied history can’t save what is, ultimately, a painfully self-conscious concoction that tries too hard.

Will Eddie make it to the wedding? Will he ever find love again? Is he really a killer? Unfortunately, by the time readers reach the overwrought conclusion, they may not care.

Pub Date: April 18th, 2017
ISBN: 978-0-385-54205-0
Page count: 336pp
Publisher: Doubleday
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 2017




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