A law school grad endures unwelcome career changes, a dire relationship with his father and a precarious marriage in Jones’ (After Isaactown, 2011) latest drama.
Life after law school for John Howard meant work as a door-to-door salesman; his biggest seller was the Portapotty. But when he loses his job and moves back in with his parents, his father’s spiteful behavior convinces John to secure employment elsewhere. What follows is a surprising shift in careers and a volatile romance with Kathy, another lawyer, all in the hope that he can make a better life for himself, away from his father’s control. Jones’ appealing novel works best outside the courtroom: John’s wedding and the first weeks of marriage, or even his search for a job, are far more enthralling and thematically relevant than a lengthy courtroom scene with John sitting second chair and giving an unimpressive performance. The convincing father-son dynamic lingers even without the father’s presence, and after being passive in most of his relationships, both business and personal, John has an intriguing reversal of his father/husband role. The striking narrative style often reads like unfiltered access to John’s mind; one of the most notable moments features John thinking of his father while his boss speaks, with John having to interrupt his thought process so he can listen to what’s being said. The narrative occasionally slips into Yoda-speak, which can be jarring: “Eerie, it was,” or “The worst of times, this was.” Thanks to refreshing humor, John’s predicament isn’t as depressing as it might have been: He avoids telling Kathy that he’s lost his job for as long as possible; his marriage proposal has a hilariously awkward response; and a young, exasperating passenger makes the plane ride to their honeymoon destination nearly unbearable. The chronology has some holes in it, though: John is 26 in 1987, but a flashback to 1962 has his then-age as 8, giving him a birthdate of possibly 1954, which would make him 32 or 33 in 1987.
A well-told coming-of-age story for a late bloomer, which could have used a round of restructuring.