In Peters’ (Peter in Flight, 2013) novel, a young man on the brink of making it big must sort out his complicated family and personal situations.
Hank Hanson has problems that many other people would like to have. At 29, he owns his own boutique greeting-card firm, which has received a multimillion-dollar buyout offer. He has a large extended family, due to his parents’ divorces and remarriages, and they all want to see him for the holidays—or as he terms it, his “annual trial—several long weeks that will test my character and prove my endurance.” Although he’s insecure, he’s still attractive enough for a beautiful woman, Erin Contee, to give him her number. However, it turns out that she has a past that affects other people in his circle. Then, his unreliable father has a financial crisis and a health scare that forces Hank to re-examine his own choices. The author paces his story well and offers some pithy images: when family friends observe the protagonist’s resemblance to his departed mother, he notes “an awkward stir of the emotional sediment that has gone untouched since our last meeting.” Hank, though, is a problematic character. On the one hand, he’s a nice-guy hero who takes care of the people around him; for example, when his siblings won’t help their father, Hank is willing to bail him out, which costs him much time, money, and effort. On the other hand, readers may find his self-pity hard to take, given his mostly enviable position in life. Many people are caught in Hank’s “sandwich generation” and supporting their parents—but with nothing like $17 million to allay expenses. Also, Hank’s tendency to blame women for his own actions reads as if he’s making excuses: “if Midge is this capable of manipulating people to get what she wants, how talented must other women be?” Women manipulate and men make mistakes, in Hank’s view—and it’s a view that calls his good-guy status into question.
A novel with some nice moments that offers an effective examination of complicated family ties despite its somewhat whiny hero.