Reeling after a shocking deathbed confession from his wife, a man in this novel tries to put his life back together.
Just before she died from cancer, Elliot Fitch’s beloved wife, Karen, told him he was not the biological father of their teenage daughter, Elena. A year later, Elliot, still filled with depression and rage, is obsessed with tracking down “the man who had destroyed my marriage and my image of my dead wife.” (He now thinks of her as a “cheating whore.”) Meanwhile, he learns that Elena is pregnant. He vows to support her, feeling guilty and not wanting to be the kind of father who “never really gave a fuck about the well-being of the girl he was supposed to have raised into a lady, not a whore.” As Elliot investigates Karen’s former boyfriends—or, as he puts it, “those who had travelled through that sacred territory before I did”—he’s aided by Veronica, a pretty young delivery driver and single mother he met while signing for a sex toy ordered by his daughter. They fall in love while together unraveling the mystery—with surprising results. Parker (Sick Day, 2014, etc.) is a more than competent writer in many ways: He structures his story well, his characters are distinctive, and his dialogue lively. But it’s hard to get past this book’s uncomfortable levels of ick, e.g., father and daughter creepily giggling and teasing each other about masturbation and sex toys or several scenes of masturbation/sex being interrupted by offspring. (Nevertheless, an Elliot/Veronica sex scene is nicely handled.) Elliot’s over-the-top resentment about Elena’s parentage tends to elbow into every interaction: As she vomits, he hopes “that my daughter—who wasn’t biologically mine in the first place—would be okay.” His petty grudges extend back to Elena’s preschool days, when he had to paint her room while she went out with mom for a pedicure. Elliot’s constant poutiness and—sometimes almost literal—dick-measuring betray many unpleasant insecurities. Finally, the trick ending is an implausible groaner.
A severe case of Madonna/whore syndrome plus a hard-to-swallow twist make for a difficult read.