I have to be honest, I bumped this up my TBR shelf because of Kem Nunn. I requested this galley on the strength of its intriguing blurb (Sex! And Crazy People!) but it's the season finale of Sons of Anarchy that propelled me to read this earlier than I intended. See Kem Nunn is a part of the show's writing team and anyone who connects that blurb with what SoA has delivered for six seasons (ie. women smacking other women with skateboards? The objectification of Charlie Hunnam's ass?) how could this fail?
Dr. Eldon Chance is on the brink, juggling a life that he barely recognizes as his anymore. His unemployed wife is divorcing him for a younger man, their daughter is growing more and more distant, the iRS is onto him and his work as a professional expert witness in court is no longer enough to pay the bills. 49-years old and helpless, Chance is drawn to the seedy, underbelly of San Francisco's… er, fancy furniture forgers to remedy his financial woes and to his troubled patient Jaclyn Blackstone to restore some of his manhood by playing as his knight in shining armor against her abusive detective husband. And just to make things more interesting, Jaclyn has a multiple personality disorder and one of her personas is this side of a nymphomaniac who likes to break prostate glands.
This is one of the most difficult books I've read, that I'm actually reluctant to say anything about it because I don't know if the unreliability of Chance as a narrator, the allusions to hallucinations, the tangential and blurry references towards Nietzsche… I don't know if these are all pieces of someone's psychosis and I'm supposed to understand it as thus at that level. But since this was told from a third person's POV the narrative comes across cold, British and ancient, rendering the rambling nature of the storytelling pointless and an ill-fit to relay Chance's state of mind.
Or maybe its all just plain bullshittery disguised in frou-frou run-on sentences running into each other, leaving a catastrophic pile of almost sensible logic in its wake.
Their combined reports spoke to the absolute absurdity and utter frailty of things, to the shining truth that lay beneath what they were trying to sell and he wondered if the detective had ever been worn down by it or had wanted in some way of his own to strike through, to break free, to go under that he might rise above, before time and circumstance came for him as they will come for us all, never guessing, as people never do, that in a darkened alley behind a european massage parlor in a part of the city known as Ghost Town, yet one more of the walking wounded, skilled beyond reckoning in the art of the blade, was waiting to say hello.
Yes that's right, that is ONE fucking sentence. Its hard enough to keep track of which pants I've already worn last week but to keep track of THAT? Way too much braining, dude.
Or maybe this book was just too smart for me. Hard to admit it but that could very well be where the problem lay. But I do believe that contingent to a successful psychological thriller is the reader being able to understand the basic foundations of the story. This story assumes you have some understanding of the tenets of psychiatry, of Nietzsche, Freud, De Clerembault Syndrome, Axioms and the Banach-Taraski paradox, which is flattering I guess to some degree to be expected to know all these things as though well as one knows the breakfast menu at McDonald's.
Then you realize you DON'T know all these things and you're sent in a spiral of self-doubt and loathing.
Thanks book. Thanks.
Maybe these are the machinations of a man on the precipice of becoming his own patient. Maybe I should have read this in one sitting (at the expense of a nosebleed as that is but one of the many run-on paragraphs this book had) to keep my focus.
And maybe its entirely my fault for being too suspicious of every character in this psychological thriller seeing as nearly everyone in this book has a psychiatric condition diagnosed by Dr. Chance. And its probably also my fault for having experienced one too many WTF plot -twists that my reading brain's default setting is to interpret conversations and dialogue beyond what is being presented at face value. I mean watching 12 Monkeys, and that club Chuck Palahnuik expressly forbids us from talking about and even reading Gone Girl can really do a number in your brain when dealing with this genre. So yeah, I stuck around, waiting for that A-ha! moment, for the pieces to fall into their place and make sense of everything.
Which never came.
If you ever plan on reading this, there are no life rafts, no diaries, no video recordings to make sense of it all.
My grasp of this story is similar to seeing something through a thick pane of opaque glass with water running down its surface under very dim lighting. I can see the parts, I can assume their movements and intentions, but I second guess every picture I form in the back of my mind. Maybe that was the point? To be vague and ambiguous, one run-on sentence after another?
Who ever can derive pleasure from all that…. needs to call me and explain.
ARC provided by Scribner thru NetGalley in exchange for an honest, unbiased review. QUotes may not appear in the final edition.