Obviously, what makes it different from other books about young marital dysfunction is the backdrop of the housing debacle and the resulting fall-out. The wasteland of Carousel Court is surreal—an armed lunatic in a pup tent, marauding wolves, black vehicles circling like sharks. Phoebe’s disintegration into full-blown opiate addiction mirrors the physical disintegration of the cul-de-sac. McGinniss takes on some difficult contemporary issues—career expectations, pernicious banks, infidelity, and violence of many kinds. Even though, I found myself asking more than once, who ARE these people? Their plight was recognizable and deeply affecting.
A really fresh and original story, The Throwback Special tells the tale of a group of men who meet up once a year to reenact the fateful 1985 football play that ended the career of the Redskins’ Joe Theisman. On that play, New York Giant linebacker Lawrence Taylor sacked Theisman, brutally snapping the QB’s leg in front of a national TV audience. As the men spend their weekend choosing roles and readying their equipment, they reveal their fears and insecurities, catching up with one another since their last reenactment. Readers who liked Billy Lynn’s Last Halftime Walk, will warm to this wise, warm, and often hilarious novel.
With Avenue of Mysteries (Simon & Schuster, $28) John Irving introduces brother and sister Diego and Lupe, denizens of the massive garbage dump in Oaxaca, Mexico. Each sibling is remarkable—Lupe can intuit people’s thoughts and Diego, though uneducated, reads everything he can lay his hands on. Their childhood is recalled by the adult Diego as he travels in the Philippines, trying to fulfill a dying wish from an acquaintance of his youth. Avenue of Mysteries contains all the things we love about Irving’s writing: masterful storytelling, unforgettable characters, and a renewed sense of magic in everyday events.