THE EASY WAY OUT by Stephen McCauley


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McCauley's funny, engaging, if somewhat meandering, second novel (The Object of My Affection, 1987) explores the dilemma of unfaithful Patrick, who longs to leave his staid lover Arthur even as he signs a mortgage application for a house the two are buying together--a charming Greek Revival cottage bordering a cemetery. Patrick frets about global warming and works as a travel agent in Cambridge, Mass.; Arthur is an even-tempered immigration lawyer whom adoring friends name their children after. Still, Arthur has his faults: ""He wanted to be accepted by me, and everyone else, one hundred percent, even if that meant my sitting quietly in the passenger seat and watching him plow head-on into a sixteen-wheeler."" Other characters, less interesting and too talky, include Patrick's loud, chain-smoking heterosexual friend Sharon; his unhappily-married parents; older brother Ryan, who lives in the parents' basement and works in the failing family store; younger brother Tony, engaged to one woman and in love with another. Pat is flattered by Tony's incessant phone calls seeking advice, since they'd grown apart after Pat declared he was gay. In Pat's opinion, his parents are ruining his older brother's marriage and pressuring his younger brother into a bad one. One wonders if this is a cautionary tale about interfering too much--or too little. But though tensions build and Pat leaves Arthur, while Tony ties the knot, the effect is one of gentle letdown rather than climax. McCauley's comic timing manifests itself, line by line, but the leisurely pace here fails to deliver the payoff. Still, this light, easy read proves satisfying fare--thanks to deftly drawn characters and their real, if sometimes reluctant, affection for one another.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1992
ISBN: 0671787381
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster