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A quick, amusing debut novel about the traumas of turning 30; dealing with a meddling parent; and navigating a social world comprised entirely of perma-exes and their new loves.

Boswell (stories: Trouble with Girls, 2003) sets the whole in Atlanta during the 1996 Olympics. Gerald Brinkman, a pot-smoking, grad-school dropout who works as a rock critic for the local alternative weekly, is a man on the brink of making big decisions about life, love, work, and his gratuitously tangled family past. At a wedding for his ex-girlfriend Nora, Gerald bumps into his crush, Sasha, a “simian-eyed, Bombay-born drug rep” who is married to Aaron, a philandering surgeon and grown-up jock boy, who also happens to be another ex-boyfriend of Nora’s. And that evening, Gerald picks up his troublesome father, a potbellied, Harvard-educated, T-shirt- and tennis shoe–wearing manic intellectual who may be even more bumbling and confused than Gerald himself. Dad, who has sold the family homestead and seems intent on moving into his son’s studio apartment while “fixing” his computer and tagging along to rock concerts, is fairly bursting with scary family secrets about the death of Gerald’s mother and his own poor health. Meanwhile, the family of exes are playing a furious game of musical chairs with sex, affection, and work: Dad and Gerald camp out at Nora’s for awhile; Nora has some spectacular revelations about the possible father of her child; Nora’s new husband becomes Gerald’s new employer; Aaron continues to schtup the nurses, and Sasha follows Gerald to indie rock shows, bakes casseroles, and proffers wine and dinner invitations. Oh, and a Major New York Music Magazine wants him too. Gerald absorbs it all with wry, intelligent commentary and few surprises.

A charming, competent, and harmless addition to lad lit.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 2005
ISBN: 0-385-33852-X
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Delacorte
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 2005