Joseph Guiteau is a working actor who moved to New York to escape a tragic family history in the Midwest. Wandering through a city transformed by the attacks of September 2001, he frequents gatherings of conspiracy groups, trying to make sense of world events and his own personal history. Looming over his life is a secret that threatens to undermine his new marriage to Del, a snake expert at a city park, whose work visa is the only thread keeping her from deportation back to her native Greece.
The new marriage influences the lives of those around them: William, a dark and troubled actor whose sanity is fading as quickly as his career, leading him to perform increasingly desperate acts; Madi, a young entrepreneur who will have to face the moral complications of a business made successful by the outsourcing of American jobs to India; and her brother Raj, Del’s former lover, a promising photographer whose work details the empty rooms of an increasingly alienated city.
Christopher Bollen’s first novel captures the atmosphere of anxiety and loss that exists in Manhattan. It is a story of the city itself, and the interconnected lives of those attempting to navigate both Manhattan and their own mortality.
Bollen's debut tells the story of a loose network of 30-somethings languishing in New York in the years between 9/11 and the financial meltdown. Life begins to unravel for Joseph Guiteau, a handsome actor with a deadly family legacy, after his green card marriage to Delphine "Del" Kousavos, a beautiful Greek immigrant stagnating in a dead-end job at the Bronx Zoo. As Joseph's health begins to falter (part of his family curse), he seeks solace in the company of conspiracy theorists and grows close to an elderly woman whose husband may have been murdered by a corporate cabal. Meanwhile, Del tries to extinguish her feelings for a morose ex-boyfriend, Raj, but circumstances bring them closer. As Joseph and Del are driven inexorably apart, their friends William, a failed actor, and Madi, a ruthless corporate profiteer, are propelled together by a series of mysterious coincidences, resulting in a shocking catastrophe that will change each of their lives. While Bollen's characters are brimming with the verve and stamina of real people searching for meaning in a city beset by calamity, the intersecting story lines in this swollen, sometimes unwieldy epic feel alternately fated and forced. Yet the novel demonstrates the vigor and audacity of a formidable new voice.
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Terrific story-Smart Writing-Great Characters- I read it in two days.