A biting satire of cloistered lives in small-town New England.
Tony Thomson (Eat Your Heart Out, Ho Chi Min, 2012) focuses on the outrageous and absurd aspects of small-town life in his new novel set in North Fork, Conn., whose classic main street and well-kept square will call to mind countless fictional small towns. It’s all seen through the eyes of Peter Smithers, a retired lawyer who spends his days milling about with his friends and casually drinking. All’s well until a group of developers plans to build a golf course and residential development on one of the largest, most pristine pieces of land in the area. A group of local residents, led by Smithers’ wife and her poisoned-tongued friend Pru, decide to fight the developers and do whatever it takes to see that the golf course isn’t built. They’re aided by Smithers’ best friend, Byron—a Machiavellian power broker who heads the town’s government—and a radio DJ named the Dame, the local media maven. The oddball cast of characters comes together to try to save the fate of the town, one misadventure at a time. Thomson’s goal is humor, and he writes every scene for maximum comedic effect. As the maniacs he calls his friends and family rush around town, Smithers offers a running, dispassionate commentary that draws out the absurdity of every situation. He casts his cynical gaze on everyone, from the oblivious, money-grubbing developers to the surprisingly nasty liberals who are trying so hard to stop them. Some of his observations are spot-on and truly funny, but as the story progresses and the stakes get raised higher and higher, it becomes unclear just who is worth rooting for and what exactly readers should want to happen, especially after a late act of violence disqualifies what little goodwill the protagonists had earned. The book’s unrelenting mean spirit might leave readers hoping everyone loses.
A comedy of human follies that’s difficult to enjoy.