VIntage: A Novel by David Baker (4 out of 5)

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Bruno Tannenbaum, the lovable hero of this book, reminds me a lot of Don Freeman from The Rosie Project and The Rosie Effect. (No idea what I’m talking about? Shame on you! Check them out. Graeme Simison is the author).
I just didn’t fall head over heels in love with how things played out the last half of the book.
Up until the last 80 pages, they had me firmly at a five star rating. Then he did the thing that killed the book- and the character’s joie de vivre- for me- he took the easy way out.
Bruno is a washed up former food writer (don’t call him a restaurant critic!) for the Chicago Sun-Times. His marriage is in trouble, and he’s sleeping on his mom’s couch after he’s busted messing around on his wife. His kids love and at times want to beat him. So, my dear, will the reader. Be warned. But you’ll want to beat him with a goosedown pillow, not an anvil.
He’s let go from his job with the Sun-Times, not only because print media is going the way of Atari, but also because he’s gaining a reputation as a lovable, drinking, frustrated writer. Bruno had one monster of a book and he’s not lived up to his potential, so the pressure is always on to repeat the runaway success of his debut book (There was a follow-up, but it’s hugging remainder bins in bookstores). He gets a lead from a friend, about a doubtful missing vintage of wine from the war, and he’s heading off (funded by his daughter’s college fund, no less) overseas on the hunt of the missing vintage. He smells not only the wine and roses, but his next big bestseller- the book that will save him, resurrect his career, and make his wife and kids love and respect him again.

Bruno gets himself into all sorts of trouble, and this caper? Well, it could get him killed, if he doesn’t stay on the right side of the Russians. I expected a little bit more cloak and dagger, but it ended up more like a Three Stooges short. That’s not a bad move, especially with the tone of the book.

Then it went south- in the last 80 pages of the book. I had such high hopes that Bruno would throw caution to the wind, and live—meaning, to become one with who he really was and what life was throwing at him. Instead, the book took another turn and he went the safe route. There’s nothing I hate more than the safe route. So yes, the ending really disappointed me. But, dear reader, don’t let that keep you from dipping into this book. It’s funny, it’s full of great ruminations on exotic fare and wine, and the characters are a hoot. If you threw Michael Scott from the office into wine country, this is what would happen. A fun book, although the ending lost the five star rating for me.

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~ by generationgbooks on August 5, 2015.

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