THE VALEDICTORIAN by Tom  Docter

THE VALEDICTORIAN

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A young American flies home from London to find that he has inherited a Canadian cabin in this novel.

Tom is 30 years old, broke, and living in London when he receives a call from his father’s lawyer. Returning to Pennsylvania, he discovers that 11 years after his death, his father has bequeathed to him a cabin just outside of Billings, Ontario. His first reaction is: “I really could have used some cash.” Tom has lived his life in the shadow of his brother, three years his senior and now a successful academic conducting medical research. Tom, in contrast, has always been an opportunist, attempting to ride the coattails of billionaires and hedge fund managers that he has met while working as a shucker in Harrods’ Oyster Bar. These opportunities all fall flat. When his brother reveals that they share different fathers, Tom recalls “a collection of odd memories” that may have been a clue (“Dad scolded me more often than my brother. But then, I stole his beer; my brother did not. I crashed the Caravan three times. My brother? Zero times”). With keys and map in hand, Tom heads north to find the cabin and perhaps a new life. The author cleverly juxtaposes Tom’s slow-paced, small-town existence with the fast life he once lived in London. Flicking between the mundanity of working the midnight shift at a Billings grocery store and glamorous reminisces of waiting on “oil-rich Arabs,” Dennis Hopper, and Elton John gives this book a varied texture. Docter is a great observer of human form and behavior, although his attention to detail can be devastatingly cruel: “It was as though she used to mock a big girl on the playground and some witch had turned her into one. The dark black hair on her forearms was left uncovered by her tight black three-quarter length sleeves. The skin around her wrists constricted like the joints on a balloon animal.” Reminiscent of Martin Amis’ Money, Docter’s novel delivers a sardonic style that will prove darkly amusing for some while others may find it too abrasive. And yet, Tom’s plight demands emotional investment—will he find a new way forward by learning more about his father’s past, or will this be simply another missed opportunity?

A tantalizing tale about a man’s Ontario odyssey; compelling from cover to cover.

Page count: 441pp
Publisher: manuscript
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 2018




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