A post-9/11 novel about the love, self-destruction, absurdity, and ambition that define the millennials
Soulful, gritty, and hilarious, Cannibals in Love is the debut novel from a bold new voice in fiction, and a manifesto for the generation that came of age at the dawn of the twenty-first century.
Mike is about to graduate from college and inherit a world much different from the one he was promised. The World Trade Center towers have just fallen, the Beltway Sniper terrorizes the nation's capital, and a polarizing president pushes forward a dubious war. Told in eighteen vignettes, Mike's misadventures begin in Washington, D.C., and span Brooklyn, Portland, and Austin as he takes up arms with the overeducated, underemployed millennials who surround him. Nursing writerly ambitions, he works a series of humiliating jobs--counting lampposts, writing spam e-mails, babysitting a teenage boy--while composing a thousand-page novel about cows as an allegory for the invasion of Iraq. And at the center of the book resides a tumultuous, passionate love story that could arise only between two people with nothing to lose.
Like a carefully assembled mixtape, Cannibals in Love weaves tender moments and summer idylls with violent late nights and the frustrations of a generation. From delirious off-track betting to a fateful walk across Kansas, Mike Roberts takes us into the guts of masculinity and identity in the age of the Internet, and joins an emerging group of young writers who are redefining the contemporary novel.
In Roberts's debut novel, Mike finds his way through the America of the early aughts, panicking about love, terrorism, and finding and keeping a job. The chapters jump in time and are largely unfocused. Characters come and go as Mike moves around the country finding work counting lampposts in upstate New York, painting apartments in D.C., babysitting in Portland, and writing spam emails, though his passion is working on his novel about cows, which he describes as an allegory about the Iraq War. The narrative momentarily comes together when a romance emerges between Mike and thinly sketched tomboy Lauren. One of the most frustrating aspects of the novel is that whenever Mike finds himself in trouble, it seems as though his only way to resolve issues is to walk away, which always somehow miraculously works for him. The world that Roberts creates is familiar, and Mike's voice is immediately recognizable. Though at times the writing becomes repetitive, there are shining moments where Roberts's novel moves seamlessly from humor to heartbreak and back again.