A book that reminds readers that the wages of sin are myriad and include the opportunity to find oneself.
James Candler knows better. A counselor at the Onyx Springs Rehabilitation and Therapeutic Center, he seems poised to become the center’s youngest director. He has a colorful cast of clients, a fiancee about to arrive from London—he proposed via text message—an expensive car he doesn’t respect himself for buying, a drafty stucco McMansion in a bedroom—read bedlam—community, and a roommate, his oldest and best friend Billy Atlas, who can barely get himself out of bed much less hold up the world. The engaged Candler hooks up with a woman he does not realize is his stalker. She, like everyone in the book, is the benevolent avatar of an evil type. Though bad things happen, and Boswell conjures menace with ease, the conclusion of the story will frustrate or please, depending upon your feelings about literary conceits; conceits Boswell handles masterfully. Boswell displays immense talent for characterization and observation, the narrator moving seamlessly among more than a dozen named characters, all with some connection to the haunted and impulsive Candler. Time is elastic, the fate of one character suspended while Boswell moves his attention back to follow a different character through the same few days, hours or minutes. Boswell makes only one misstep in a novel that seems guaranteed to deliver pleasure: Karly Hopper, a client at the rehab center, is drop-dead gorgeous and developmentally disabled, but only enough to make her laugh at everything and flirt with everyone. She's less a character than a waking wet dream, and her redemption—and whom she redeems—is too pat. Boswell (The Heyday of Insensitive Bastards, 2009, etc.), recipient of two NEA Fellowships, a Guggenheim Fellowship and a PEN West Award for Fiction, shares the Cullen Chair in Creative Writing at the University of Houston with his wife, writer Antonya Nelson.
An impressive work.