Quicksand by Steve Toltz (5 out of 5)
This is Steve Toltz’s second book. The first, The Fraction of the Whole, created a whole cloud of buzz when it came out. I read that one when I was at the previous book gig, and the best part is that I stumbled onto it purely by accident. At that time, I was won over by his usage of language, myriad plot devices, and the mania surrounding the family dynamic, as shown in that book, as brutal truth (as it usually is with family). This time? Well, this is a darkly comic story of the friendship between two unlikely men. The plot is twisted, dark, funny, and Toltz’s command of the literary devices that are necessary to ensnare the reader, are out in full force. It’s an unbelievable book. The galley (sent to me by the wonderful Wendy at S&S) is underlined throughout. There are sentences, entire paragraphs, and character assassinations throughout that demanded I remember them, for future quoting or future re-reading. The entire book is not going to be easily forgotten. I was profoundly disturbed, moved, and laughing at a number of instances throughout the book that some may not find funny at all. So I’m taking the time, dear reader, to tell you- if you’re a Danielle Steel or Nicholas Sparks fan, Do NOT pick up this book. If you have read and enjoyed David Foster Wallace or Jeffrey Eugenides, this will be more your speed. I cannot tell you how much I loved this book, because his usage of the English language is stellar, and he knows exactly how to use it to get the book moving down the dark and twisted path it travels. Aldo and Liam do NOT have a typical friendship, and those are often the best vehicles in which to be trapped, and that’s certainly the case with Quicksand. Put in your orders at your local independent bookstore for this title, which is out on September 9, 2015. Prepare to be entranced, entrapped, and furiously talking back to the book. The ending? Well, I loved and didn’t love that, for many alternating reasons. I wonder if Toltz planned that? It would be a tremendous testimony to the work if he did that end on purpose, because you battle with the book for dominance, and yes, the book wins the battle throughout. Pick it up when it comes out, and prepare to be pulled under. You’ll have a blast!
Liam and Aldo’s friendship is more of a tug of war between two very different characters who have a connection(s) that defies logic and most corners of human nature. Liam is a struggling writer and cop. Aldo, his best friend and muse in most of his work, is a criminal always looking for his next chance to make a few bucks, and somehow always manages to end in disaster, more often than not befalling Aldo (he’s in a wheelchair, to give you an example of how most of those schemes end up for him). Liam’s current work is to catalog Aldo’s often baseless attempts to win back his ex-wife Stella, a character that I can only say is a cross between Flo the waitress from the tv show Alice, Bette Midler on her most ribald days, and RuPaul. Throw in some shenanigans that not only define but define woman, and you have quite a “catch” in Stella. Aldo is not giving up on winning her back, though, and as perplexed and addicted to their after-marital discord as he is, Liam sees a path to a best-selling work. He also sees Aldo’s luck getting progressively worse. A good portion of the book finds the two of them getting themselves into situations- and out of situations, if they’re lucky- that defy anything you would imagine in everyday life. That’s why Quicksand is a lot of fun, too. That unpredictability lends an air of excitement and foreboding to the entire work. And it’s a shit ton of fun, although, again- as I said, there are some VERY dark moments in here that some might get “offended” over or “turned off” in their pursuit of finishing this fine work. The question is- does this end well? Does Aldo win Stella back? Does Liam manage to not get imprisoned due to his associations with the often felonious Aldo? What happens? It’s easy to know why Toltz titled the book Quicksand. Because once you’re into this book, you’re INTO this book. You’re not going anywhere. If it’s a hostage situation, give up, you’re screwed. And you’ll like it. I LOVED it!