Hanley’s debut novel tells a tale of twin brothers in a drug-and-sex-fueled psychological whirlwind.
Thom Thompson is just one of thousands of Los Angeles actors looking for his big shot at stardom. But if he can’t have stardom, he’ll settle for his next drug hit or anonymous sexual encounter. He and his twin brother had a traumatic childhood, as they were both adopted by a pill-popping woman they call Mommie Dearest. Their absent father, only known as “Daddy,” is presumed dead. When Thom’s sitcom is suddenly and humiliatingly canceled, he risks his career—and his life—to go live with his brother in New York in the days leading up to September 11, 2001. When Daddy resurfaces shortly after the terrorist attacks, Thom is forced to come to terms with himself, his twin, his adoptive mother and his past—all while taking vast amounts of drugs. Hanley’s novel depicts a story of despair and pain wrapped in a haze of glamour and ever-elusive fame. His intriguing narrative strategies, including a chapter countdown and a first-person plea to an evasive “you” (Thom’s twin brother), lend the novel a touch of pathos that elevates it above the standard Hollywood chronicle. That said, although the author uses honest, graphic descriptions of gay orgies and drug use to great effect, the scenes’ frequency and length sometimes threaten to overshadow the plot. Despite this structural weakness, however, Hanley deftly handles the story of the twins’ fraught relationship, balancing humor and emotion while hinting at the complexity of their trauma.
A cautionary tale about the heights and depths of fame and family.