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Library Journal Review
Roy Courtright is a bit of an ascetic, a wealthy vintage auto dealer who stays fit, and something of a womanizer, although more romantic than rake. Sam Grandy is a vastly overweight spendthrift with a sleek banker wife named Kristin. Their lifelong friendship is tested when Sam's heart attack throws together Roy and Kristin, who asks Roy to stop bailing out Sam (he now wants $50,000). The relationship between this formerly standoffish pair heats up, and Sam's games and tricks cause the situation to deteriorate further, bringing up questions about how good his and Roy's "best friendship" was all along. The loyalties of all three characters take surprising turns, not always for the better. This novel manages without excessive plot, that overrated device that lets the Grishams of this world flourish; it even becomes a page-turner. Berger (Little Big Man) succeeds with characterization, detail, ethical complication, and nuance, and the result is outstanding. For all collections. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 1/03.]-Robert E. Brown, Minoa Lib., NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Thirtysomethings Roy and Sam have been best friends since boyhood, but middle age has revealed their fundamental differences. Roy is fit, financially solvent, a dedicated bachelor, and an accomplished womanizer; he drives his vintage cars aggressively but well. Sam is obese and spends as recklessly as he drives; his whiny dependence on his straitlaced wife, Kristin, keeps him well fed and out of the red. After Sam has a sudden heart attack, Roy and Kristin conspire to shape him up, unaware that their common needs will lead to furtive passion. Roy's friendship with Sam crumbles further with every encounter, but falling in love with his best friend' s wife lets Roy finally address his own emptiness. Berger's latest novel is as subtly unpredictable and generalization-defying as much of his earlier work (Little Big Man , most famously). His characters are as nuanced as ever, presented with the sensitive psychological insight we've come to expect over Berger's 50-year career. His staying power occasionally works against him, afflicting Roy and friends with midlife crises (and tastes in vintage cars) more appropriate for older characters; there are a few awkward Internet references. These mild anachronisms certainly don't interfere, however, with this graceful tale of friendship and betrayal. Knowing what master storyteller Berger is capable of, they may even be deliberate, playful puzzlements. --Brendan Driscoll
Kirkus Book Review
This trim, mordant 22nd by the author forever identified with his classic Little Big Man (1964) is one more of the surprises that have cropped up throughout Berger's matchless 50-year career. It's another tale of urban personal and sexual conflict and misadventure, executed with the precision that distinguishes such deadpan black-comic masterpieces as Sneaky People, Neighbors, and The Houseguest. Berger's protagonist is Roy(alton) Courtwright, a mid-30s bachelor of independent means who also runs a vintage car dealership, and indulges "an enjoyable, relatively risk-free, and intentionally harmless way of life" that includes numerous friendly sexual conquests. Roy's opposite in every way is his longtime friend Sam Grandy, an obese couch potato who plays investment games on the Internet, while his many appetites (he's a collector, while Roy is a doer, and giver) are supported by his energetic wife Kristin, a bank manager who also finds time to whip up superb gourmet meals. The plot exfoliates smoothly from this simple premise, as Roy's affability brings him intimately close to Kristin when Sam is hospitalized with a heart attack. Then things get weird. The divorcÉe who's Roy's current lover is murdered by her suicidal ex. Coincidental acquaintances involve Roy awkwardly with a tough-broad nurse and an overeager coed, and bring him to the brink of liaisons with a policeman's hardworking wife and even Roy's matronly secretary Margaret Forsythe (who's actually the voice of his bewildered conscience). No other writer can build a symphony of seriocomic confusion with such a sure touch. Roy's innocently intended emotional and sexual vacillations are, magically, made bizarre, hilarious, and enormously moving. Berger's terrific plot takes several unforeseen and unsettling turns en route to its savage dÉnouement. And it's capped by an absolute killer of a final sentence. Nobody writes them like Thomas Berger. Not to be missed. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.