A radio engineer finds his life in Cambridge transformed thanks to tree huggers, job politics, and more in this debut novel.
Bob Boland, single, 48, lives in the Cambridge, Massachusetts, home he inherited from his recently deceased blue-collar parents. He works nights as an engineer at a local radio station, supporting a jazz show hosted by similarly aged Rif. He’s also writing an “unwieldy jazz manifesto” about the ways the current generation of players is “killing” jazz. Bob bristles when Abigail, one of the many academic/yuppie neighbors who surround him, asks him to cut down his Norway maples, claiming that they are an invasive species that is killing her arborist-curated trees. When he learns about a group protesting the uprooting of a perhaps ancient Japanese maple due to a condo construction, Bob attends their meeting, thinking he’ll get help for his situation. He is derailed, however, by his attraction to member Leonie Marshall, a Californian teaching dance at Harvard. They soon sleep together but only after Bob refuses Leonie’s request to do so without birth control because the recent divorcée is eager to have a child. The radio station switches Bob to the day shift, and he contends with a new station manager’s mandate to move to an all-news format. Cronin terms her own family “quirky Cantabridgians,” and such flavor infuses this amusing novel set within the Cambridge milieu. Bob’s wry observations of this world are particularly enjoyable, including that city hall workers are “people whose livelihoods depend on keeping their accents.” This character’s feeling stuck also wonderfully culminates with him being literally so near the end of novel. While somewhat overloaded with yuppie stereotypes (there’s also a meditation-guru neighbor, etc.), overall, this is a colorful, comic snapshot of a community—and a character’s serious growth within it.
A funny, atmospheric exploration of midlife evolution.