The Book of Why

Nicholas Montemarano. Little, Brown, $24.99 (304p) ISBN 978-0-316-18847-0
Everything happens for a reason—except when it doesn’t. This is the premise of Montemarano’s (If the Sky Falls) quasi-philosophical second novel, which asks the question: why doesn’t it? Too-aptly-named life coach Eric Newborn cuts himself off from the world after his wife, Cary, dies of complications from a brain tumor. A guru of positive thinking and hailed preacher of “anything is possible,” Eric becomes the “self-help author who can’t help himself.” Montemarano, a Pushcart-winner who has appeared four times in Best American Short Stories volumes, has a strong grasp of New Age–speak (which is quite funny at times). He has created a mishmash of fan letter snippets; choppy, stream-of-consciousness meditations on loss; and flashbacks to Eric and Cary’s solid marriage and her decline, painting a convincing portrait of a breakdown of faith and self-worth. But a convoluted and thin thread involving a wacko groupie who shows up seeking counsel, while offering her own misguided version of renewal, takes some steam out of the novel. The path this groupie leads Eric down—a spontaneous road trip to a place from a dream in search of a stranger she believes is connected to Eric’s past—feels too overburdened with coincidences to be credible. Agent: Jill Grinberg Literary Management. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 10/29/2012
Release date: 01/08/2013
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