ASK BOB by Peter Gethers


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In his latest novel, Gethers (Norton, the Loveable Cat that Travelled the World, 2011, etc.) spins a modern tale of betrayal and reconciliation, failure, forgiveness and family.

Dr. Bob Heller has done well for himself, especially considering he’s from a family suffering from "repressed neuroses, disappointment and...unfilled expectations." His grandfather was a prosperous manufacturer. His father rebelled, studied acting, found work in a soap opera but turned complacent. His older brother, Ted, much admired as Bob grew up, has somehow evolved into a narcissistic sociopath. College student Bob met beautiful and generous Anna while vacationing in Europe. They married. Shortly after graduating veterinary school, Bob was offered a job in Greenwich Village, with a free upstairs apartment, by a worthy mentor, Dr. Marjorie Paws. Dr. Bob even became a television personality and a newspaper columnist. Life is perfect, until Anna dies of stomach cancer. Phil, Bob’s lifelong friend, believes someday we’ll learn "life, at its core, was one grand, miserable, painful, ecstatic joke." Now Bob thinks that may be true. Gethers sketches perfectly the character and motivations of Bob’s father and the evolution of Bob’s brother from hero to hustler. However, Bob’s mother remains unformed, at least until the narrative's latter portion, where her character blossoms to reflect Bob’s deepening maturity. As he approaches 40, widowed Bob meets Camilla, an English-born physician serving with Doctors without Borders. The romance that ensues is passionate and volatile, with Camilla, full of anger and emotionally isolated, becoming one of the novel’s strongest figures. Another is Hilts, Bob’s nephew, crippled by Ted’s manipulations and left "too disconnected and too self-protective and too...sad." Dr. Bob is likable enough as a protagonist, but his actions at a critical point in the story seem counterintuitive. The novel is rendered from Bob’s point of view, with extracts from his "Ask Dr. Bob" column; his remarks there about animal behavior are intended to mirror elements of the narrative.

A melancholy yet redeeming story of life and love, loss and redemption.

Pub Date: Aug. 6th, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-8050-9331-5
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Henry Holt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 2013


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