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by Owen King

Pub Date: March 19th, 2013
ISBN: 978-1-4516-7689-1
Publisher: Scribner

Gen-Y angst riffles the pages of King’s (We’re All in this Together, 2005) debut novel.

This is an often weirdly funny book, all the same. Samuel Dolan graduated from a liberal arts college in upstate New York. His girlfriend, Polly, left to live with her parents in Florida. Sam’s mother is dead, and Sam doesn’t much like his father, Booth. Booth Dolan has made a career out of scenery-chewing in B-movies—and doing what he wants, including chasing skirts. Sam’s passionate ambition is his indie film, Who We Are, "about the costs of growing up—and the costs of not growing up. And that was heavy stuff." Sam makes his film, but the film that finds its way into print isn’t the film he made, thanks to the crazed machinations of Brooks, an unstable assistant director Sam took on since he was a rich kid who chipped in big bucks. Years later, Sam ends up in Brooklyn doing "weddingography," themed if you like—Grindhouse, Nouvelle Vague or Citizen Wedding. And Who We Are? It’s a cult film "playing to packed, goofy, inebriated houses," complete with the Brooks-inserted masturbating satyr and other aberrations. There are even residual checks, which Sam refuses to cash. King’s characters are both attractive and realistic, not only larger-than-life Booth and disaffected Sam, but also Allie, Sam’s mother, who was always cool and accepting, even of Booth’s "blithe selfishness." There’s Mina, Sam’s wise and fragile half sister; Polly, who still beds Sam even after marrying a buffoonish retired Yankee baseball player; Rick Savini, an eccentric yet successful character actor who treats Sam as an equal; and television producer Tess, earnest and bossy, whom Sam meets as he films a wedding. The narrative blossoms and unfolds and expands, Sam becoming wiser and more likable, even as he reconciles with his world at a happily-enough-ever-after homecoming. Unique in concept and execution, with much mention of Orson Welles and Dog Day Afternoon, King's novel is winning.    

Superbly imagined lit-fic about family, fathers and film.