In Monda’s fictional memoir, the narrator reflects back on his mischievous youth and his discontent as an adult.
Petey Walsh makes his way to Manhattan to attend the wedding of his best friend, Jackie Collins, and reunites with his boyhood crew from Seattle. He’s immediately drawn back into the allure of alcohol- and drug-fueled dissipation. His first order of business when he gets off the plane is to “score some weed,” a feckless misadventure that ends with Petey getting robbed. In the company of the old gang, he wistfully reflects on a mischievous youth—he was the chief “instigator” of a rambunctious lot prone to devilishly prankish hijinks. However, that gamesome streak eventually slid into darker behavior. His addiction to alcohol and drugs led to a stint in rehab. Petey moved to Guadalajara, Mexico, opened a chain of cafes, married, and had two daughters. Now, he still feels deeply dissatisfied by it all, especially his contentious marriage to Elena. Debut author Monda artfully combines an atmosphere of elegiac remembrance with punchy comical anecdotes. The story toggles between Petey’s narration of his present experience in New York City and his recollection of his wayward adolescence and life in Mexico. His adulthood, despite the obligations of family and business he’s assumed, has a shiftless quality, as if he never planned on reaching middle age. “I honestly believed that I never would’ve lived past twenty-six,” he says.
Monda poignantly captures Petey’s reluctance to mature and the profound shame that hesitation causes him. Despite an abundance of opportunities, he despairs not only of squandered benisons, but also of the existential anguish he feels he hasn’t earned—a heartache the author tenderly and unflinchingly depicts. “And through my own free will, or lack thereof, I had taken all of life’s blessings and flung them back in her face, choosing instead darkness, despair, and misery.” Monda’s prose can be featurelessly anodyne. His writing is littered with stale clichés (“I remember it as if it were yesterday”). While the prose can be very funny and endearingly self-effacing—Petey is inarguably free of pretention—it lacks any discernibly literary quality. In fact, the whole book reads like a long anecdote told from a bar stool, which loses some of its charm over the course of nearly 300 pages. Further, some readers may tire of the plot’s bottomless reserve of fraternity-style energy. In Monda’s defense, arrested development is not a particularly attractive quality, and so Petey’s callow boorishness is as fitting as it is grating. Nevertheless, Monda’s fictional memoir is an impressively astute anatomy of remorse—and a surprisingly hopeful one, too.
A comedic but cliché-ridden chronicle of self-destructiveness smartly combined with a sober consideration of adult responsibility.