The Bend of the World by Jacob Bacharach (5 out of 5)



Oh boy, did I have fun reading this! So much that I stretched it out over a week when normally it would have only taken me a few days to plow through it. This is, of course, an exaggeration of fortunes. Bad week led to writer’s block led to gallstone attack led to flu led to not a lot of reading done. Today I woke up determined to give it the read it deserved. And I did. And yes, it only took me two hours and twenty minutes to finish it. And it was totally worth that two hours and twenty minutes.

I’ve read a lot of books this year where the adult lead is stuck in a perpetual state of old enough to be an adult-but-trying-not-to-be-an-adult. It’s a syndrome that has been in no fewer than six books I’ve read this year. Peter Morrison, our 29 year old lead, has a case of this syndrome. Pittsburgh, PA, isn’t what you would expect as a hotbed of activity, intergalactic or otherwise, but this little novel manages to convince you otherwise. He and his girlfriend Lauren Sara (one of the funniest parts of the book is the insinuation that anyone who uses their first and middle names is just trouble. Oddly enough, I have always said that and been heckled. Ha! No more) are ambling along in what feels like more of a friendship than an actual relationship, but they use the titles, so I guess that means she is his girlfriend. That doesn’t stop Peter from developing a full-blown crush on Helen, half of a couple that can only be described as “unhealthy relationship”. The other half of the couple, Mark, is a corporate lawyer who’s negotiating a buyout of the very company that Peter works for (Global Solutions). Those two- Helen and Mark- are wealthy and glamorous and shady as hell. They strike up a friendship with the easily wowed Peter, and that’s the cornerstone of most of the book. There are other characters who lighten up the canvas here: Peter’s parents, his grandmother the art maven, and most hilariously, Johnny, his best friend who’s an addict and conspiracy theorist gone amok.  In a twist not so far-fetched due to Johnny’s rants and ravings throughout the book, the specter of UFO’s over Pittsburgh does manage to make a strong case in the pages of the novel. In fact, it’s almost so much that it becomes a character. Peter’s parents and art maven bordering on Gloria Swanson-like grandmother are along for the ride, although I do wish we’d seen his grandmother more. She’s a fucking hoot. Johnny’s mad ravings pull him into the doubtful orbit of one insanely populist cult type persona author, Winston Pringle (I have a theory myself;; that he is perhaps based upon one L. Ron Hubbard). Pringle’s popular and widely contested conspiracy bible is argued far and wide, except that Johnny believes they are starting to come true. How does this tie in with Peter, the loony couple, and Global Solutions? Oh, it does, it does. And how it does, well, you’ll just have to read this little gem to find out. It’s hilarious, odd, and quietly brilliant.

All of these things will go far in getting the book the credit it deserves. I haven’t enjoyed a book this quirky since The Intern’s Handbook by Shane Kuhn (another book you should check out). Peter is truly a character I felt a shit ton of sympathy for, yet there’s always the lurking question of why doesn’t he separate himself from the denizens of doomsday if he doesn’t wish to participate in their mad ramblings? Johnny is one of those characters that you want to love, but ultimately, in the reading of the book, you want to smack him in the head with a garden hose. He annoyed me, and I think that was the point. Usually my favorite characters in literary and true life form are those who are conspiracy theorists, who embrace the idea that the truth is out there, and the loose screws in the cog are the ones who will save the world. Johnny just reminds me of the annoying person who keeps chattering on and on about things that no one cares about, even after being told to shut the fuck up. Lauren Sara is the worst girlfriend ever, and she really doesn’t contribute to much when she is there. She’s a plot device to introduce Helen, who we gather from Peter’s words, is the type of woman he needs in his life. The part that I love about that angle is that’s so true of real life its downright frightening. How many times do we suffer through the pains of relationship inertia with riff-raff when we could have the gold star? So true, and Bacharach paints that right into the story so very well. Mark is just a scumlord in my book. No matter my moral dissection of the characters, it doesn’t change the fact that the odd characters make up the story so well that it adds to the book. You can’t buy the story if you don’t buy into those who are telling it.

Bacharach is incredibly capable of writing a funny, odd, and great coming of age novel that doesn’t make you think too much. It does, however, make you laugh your ass off throughout and make you continue tearing through it to see what oddity is going to take place next and where the story is going. I loved this book. I cannot wait to see what he comes up with next.

~ by generationgbooks on May 13, 2014.

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