Life begins to spin out of control for a 49-year-old man in this debut novel about a midlife coming-of-age.
Jesse Few is a salesman whose carefree, man-child days of drinking and philandering have caught up with him. As the successful sales and marketing department manager at Papier Mondiale, a large French corporation with a base in Atlanta, Georgia, Jesse finds his work demoralizing, as he spends too much time laying off salesmen. His thrice-widowed, 81-year-old mother, who has a great fondness for her afternoon cocktails, is suffering from the early stages of dementia; his sideline real estate investment business is tanking after the 2008 economic collapse; and his son, JJ, has just been arrested for drunk driving. Worse yet, JJ’s 17-year-old girlfriend, Melanie, was in the car with him, and her father, Pastor Sonny of the First Baptist Church of Dwyer, is a former member of a motorcycle gang—and he’s not amused. McCondichi endows his protagonist with a good deal more depth than initial impressions would indicate. For example, he gradually reveals Jesse’s sympathetic back story over the course of the narrative, and also shows his genuine devotion to his mother (“Somehow, his mother was going to be the first one he helped”); Jesse eventually uncovers a dark secret that’s been tormenting her, releasing her from terrifying hallucinations. He also bravely embarks on a dangerous mission to rescue his son from the clutches of Sonny and his paid minions. The narrative moves at a good clip as Jesse navigates his way through one crisis after another, among a fully developed cast of supporting characters. Along the way, he figures out how to become the adult that his aging mother and teenage children truly need him to be.
An enjoyable page-turner with a reluctant hero who’s as engaging as he is impulsive.