The moral of this fine novel is that there's hope for everyone, unless of course you screw it up.
Angus Truax is a thoroughly odious character—55 years old, adrift, overweight, insensible, unforgiving, and a cynical smartass. As the novel begins, Angus is setting a date 30 days out for ending his life, and, honestly, we do not care. Then things begin to turn as Laser works writing magic, and a run-of-the-mill story with a boring protagonist becomes something quite engaging. Angus quits his job writing columns about hard-luck cases for a northern New Jersey newspaper, but no matter, since his end date is arriving. Though he felt nothing but scorn for his subjects, his column did surprisingly raise money for them, so he accomplished much good in spite of himself. His brother, a Buddhist monk (Brother Bob as he calls him), arrives unannounced, and Angus is irritated by family as well as life in general. The caregiver to his elderly landlady upstairs is a Georgian immigrant, and he's derisive in his thoughts of her—until he engages and finds out she's dying from mercury poisoning she acquired from eating fish in her homeland. Eka is a good, caring woman, needy in her dying state, worried about her son, Davit. Angus begins to help her, and the novel becomes a seesaw of tender moments, total screw-ups, and a suspense that becomes unbearable for Angus and the reader. As Angus reflects, “I am a dead man with a crush on a dead woman.” Every advance as a human being by Angus is met with an incomprehensible step backward until everyone truly gets what he or she deserves.
Laser lulls you into dislike of his protagonist and then mounts a steamroller of a novel. This book is a well-written, welcome surprise.