Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Mr. Peanut by Adam Ross

Very interesting, at times sublime, novel. Three novels in one, at least. The first, framing story is about the down-turn of the marriage of a very successful video game designer and a counselor for disturbed children, a woman who has lost over 150 pounds finally after years of dieting. Her husband, though, over the 13 years of their marriage, has found himself fantasizing often about her death. And that's how the novel opens, with the husband accused of killing her by forcing two fistfuls of peanuts down her throat, which she is highly allergic to, and which he knows will kill her. The husband is also writing a novel, which may or may not be the book we are reading. He's also been in touch with a private eye/hired killer named Mobius, who may or may not have decided to murder the wife on his own

Enter novels number two and three, about the two detectives who question the husband. The first detective is suffering marital woes of his own: his wife has refused to leave her bedroom for five months. The second detective is none other than Sam Shepard, the midwest doctor accused of murdering his wife, who was exonerated and released from prison after serving ten years, a case widely believed to be the basis of the TV series The Fugitive.

The lengthy novella about Sam Shepard's marriage and affairs might be the best thing about the book, although all three stories have their power.

It's a bit of a puzzle piece, sorting out what is real, what is imagined, what is the first husband's imagination, what's his novel, and what's the real narrative we're reading.

In the end, it's a dark, compulsive, often beautiful examination of marriage almost exclusively through several husbands' eyes. Men don't come out smelling too nice by the end. Women aren't much better.

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