A Huffington Post “2017 Hottest Reads of The Summer” Pick
“Taylor Larsen creates a powerful and moving story about the fracturing of a family and its descent into chaos. A brilliant debut of self-delusion, and a perfectly flawed male character spiraling downward.” —Huffington Post
An “emotionally intelligent family drama” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review), in the tradition of Tom Perrotta’s Little Children, about a wealthy man who reaches a crossroads after a lifetime of repression, sending his family into a slow spiral towards a breakdown.
When Michael James sees his wife Nancy chatting with a stranger at a party, his intuition tells him that he’s watching her with the man she should have married. He quickly begins a campaign to replace himself within his own family with this other man—who, to him, is worthier, better, and kinder—all so his faithful wife Nancy, his beautiful teenage daughter Ryan, and his young son Max can live the lives they deserve.
While Michael pursues this man’s friendship, Ryan goes through a period of sexual awakening and rebellion and distances herself from her family, and the quiet, weak Nancy becomes increasingly befuddled and frustrated by the behaviors of her husband and daughter. As tension and uncertainty build in their home, the James family slowly unravels.
With the quiet intensity of the film American Beauty and the emotional sensitivity of Lorrie Moore, Taylor Larsen creates a powerful and moving story about the fracturing of a family and its descent into chaos.
The delicate balance of family relationships, and the yearning for something more, lie at the heart of Larsen's debut novel. Many of the components both Michael and Nancy feel restless in their marriage, and their teenage daughter Ryan is struggling with the many changes adolescence brings feel familiar and even a bit retro (think Updike or Cheever). At 42, Michael is lost and views almost everyone he encounters, whether old friend or new acquaintance, as a road not taken. He even traces his failing marriage back to "an awful woman from Georgia" whom he blames. When Michael becomes inexplicably fixated on a party guest named John, he hatches a plan: to replace himself in his family with John. Nancy, for her part, is similarly drawn to the turning point of their wedding, and also secretly feels that much has been lost. Ryan is oppressed by the "dreary energy of their house." She feels much closer to her longtime friend, Carol, and Carol's mom, Jill. As high school puts a wedge in the relationship of the two girls, Ryan and Jill are, strangely, bonding. Ryan's younger brother, Max, is adored by his family, and is arguably the glue that holds them together. Larsen makes her elements fresh with the quiet authority of her prose and the ease with which she transitions from the perspective of one main character to another. This is an intimate and involving story by a promising new voice.