A small town rallies to beat ever worsening odds against its survival in this madcap comic novel by Wensink (Broken Piano for President, 2012, etc.).
The flyspeck town of Dyson, Ohio, is in trouble: A $10 million budget shortfall has it scrambling for revenue ideas. But the locals have little faith in the leadership of its young mayor, Bo, to concoct a tourist-magnet scheme—Dyson has already tried that, trumpeting itself as a “Christmas City.” Oh, and, according to NASA, a falling satellite may blast the town to cinders in a matter of days. The opening sections of this novel are antic fun, and Wensink matches his pileup of absurd predicaments with a motley crew of characters: a Powerball winner trying to launch a casino in town, a suicidal ex-mayor, an on-the-skids radio host hoping the satellite disaster will be his big break, a police chief who was once a world-class opera singer, the owner of a plastic-fruit factory who thinks his product is key to Dyson’s recovery. Wensink knows this setup is so goofball that he doesn’t need to oversell the comedy, and his laugh lines are mostly blunt and deadpan; when Bo asks if the satellite can be shot down, he’s told, “Those missiles are reserved for killing people on the other side of the planet.” But once the nuttiness is established, Wensink struggles to make something of it. Is he satirizing Midwestern civic pride? Tourist traps? Hype-driven news cycles? And why is a mummy wandering around town anyhow? Wensink crams more characters into this clown car than necessary, laboring in the closing chapters to track each of his leads, and the forced, faux-cliffhanger section endings blunt what ought to have been more high-spirited fun.
A lark that can’t quite follow through on its entertaining setup.