This book isn’t out just yet, but let me tell you that you should put it on your list for January. I know, most of the blog posts have been books coming out in January. Believe me when I tell you that January is going to be a big month for books being released. For those of us working the retail end, that’s welcome after the returns from the holiday are being processed and you inwardly groan everytime someone with a plastic bag enters your bookstore. This January more so, because December really isn’t giving us much in the way of new books to sell you for the holiday season! Anyone who works in the biz and has seen that advance catalog for December from Ingram knows that it is chock full of not much at all. I am happy to add that I can restock much of my recommends list in January! About 7 books, including this one, are going up. This book is out on January 10, 2017, and is brought to us by the fine folks at Scribner.
Let’s talk about this book. Reading it reminds me of Jonathan Tropper’s “This Is Where I Leave You”, but not as sad. Don’t get me wrong- there ARE sad moments in this book, but they are not overwhelming. Tropper’s book was my least favorite of his lot, for many reasons that I would have to revisit to list. D’Agostino, however, has nailed it.This is precisely how a book with these revolving storylines should have turned out. There are equal parts dysfunction, love, humor, and hope throughout. George and Ana have spent their whole lives running their antiques shop, providing a roof over their kids’ heads and raising them to go out into the world. And they do, with a mixed bag of results. Josef is a sex addict trying to salvage his failing business, his stunted relationship with his kids, all the while plotting his next conquest. Charlie is a “personal assistant” to a Hollyweird prima donna who insists that Charlie drop her own life to basically do everything but wipe her ass for her. Charlie truly does have a situation Ground Zero going on in her personal life, with her strange art “professor” husband Rey treating their autistic son like an outsider instead of trying to work with his quirks and social anxiety. Not to mention that unexplained pair of Victoria’s Secret underwear that she found in their bedroom- that DON’T belong to her. Rey? Is the type of pretentious, self-absorbed twerp who needs to be hit with a chair to the back. George and Ana still have their son Armie living with them, however. He’s a sensitive soul who has never been able to figure out what to do with his life. He did go into one of Josef’s get-rich investment deals, and not only lost the job, but got hauled into questioning by the FBI for his troubles. He’s nursing a crush on a former schoolmate, but can’t seem to break out of hiding out in the basement all day doing woodwork and wearing scary pink shorts. Believe me, readers, these pink shorts make enough of an appearance that you are not exempt from visuals popping into your head when they happen in the book. The kids, you will agree, are not alright. Papa George is also not alright. He is dying of cancer. He tells Ana that he feels terrible, but quietly makes some sort of peace with what is likely coming. The times comes, and Ana’s grief brings regret of all kinds to the surface. It gets better…George left a letter behind to the family, in which his top priority in wake of his passing is his family selling his beloved Magritte painting. His other priority is to say he wants a memorial servicece, NOT a church service.And to be cremated, not buried. Ana, a deeply devout woman, had already envisioned a church worship for her husband, so this unsettles her even more. George’s presence looms over the entire family, to almost an extent that it feels like “Weekend at Bernie’s”, minus an actual body. I just reread that whole paragraph, and it sounds so grim… but it really isn’t. There is dark humor here, but also, as I said, warm moments of quietude and realization. And a bunch of people bound by the ties of family, although they have drifted widely apart. Their father’s greatest wish may come true, if the kids can pull their heads out of their asses. Charlie finally comes home from the West Coast for her father’s service with her son, but that goes out the window when her addict Hollywood actress follows her there, dragging her son. Melody is a real trip, and some much needed comic relief. Of course, that idiot husband shows up, and it all goes to hell. Josef is trying to use his dad’s death as an angle to get back with his ex and mother of his two girls, only to be told she has moved on, and his girls are very unimpressed by his fatherly involvement in their lives. Poor Arnie has the girl of his dreams offering sympathy, and all he can think about is where his life has gone downhill. Even the family dog Shadow gets in the act and is barely hanging on himself before George leaves the earth. Can these kids get wuth the program and leave their dirty laundry on the clothesline to bury their father and band together to sell this beloved painting? As well as mourn their dad and try to help their mother in her time of sorrow?
Well, I really did expect some chintzy, weak ass ending to this story. I also though Josef and Melody would end up together (not sure why, just a hunch). Neither of those came about. Thank God! D’Agostino does a superb job of tying all these characters together, idiosyncrasies and all. I cannot imagine how this would have turned out if it didn’t work out the way it did. Except I still would have clubbed that sock thief in the back with a chair. Other than that, no complaints! I loved this book for do many reasons. Very real, very flawed individuals. A legitimate family dynamic when all the individuals are so different from one another, and so different from the preconceived notions that the siblings had of each other. How hard is it to live with one another, while mourning your father, when you have so many stepping stones to get past? This is a great way to find out! I loved the supporting cast- Audrey (Arnie’s crush), Melody (the actress whom Charlie had been working for), Dustin (her son), the girls that Josef is screwing with and around on…they all had a part in how this story folds out. I also loved all of the main characters. Hell, I was even rooting for the dog to make it! It’s a breath of fresh air in a stale laundry room, this book. Go out and secure yourself a copy in January.