A Thousand Pardons

Jonathan Dee. Random, $26 (224p) ISBN 978-0-8129-9321-9
“Something’s got to happen,” complains middle-aged suburbanite Ben Armstead, before destroying his marriage and career with a workplace tryst at the start of Dee’s undercooked new novel (after The Privileges, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize). Newly divorced, Ben’s ex-wife Helen moves to Manhattan with their adopted Chinese daughter Sara. Helen discovers that she has a gift for public relations and finds work at a PR firm, though she lacks experience and training. Before Ben can say “mea culpa,” Helen is headhunted by a powerhouse firm, whose leader calls her approach to PR “the wave of the future.” But when old school crush Hamilton Barth, now a troubled movie star, comes to her with a problem, she turns her PR skills to helping him, which ultimately puts Helen, Ben, and Sara in the same place again. A number of problems plague this novel: the thin Hamilton is ultimately inconsequential to the book, as is the romance between Sara and a black classmate discovering identity politics. Worse is Helen’s transformation from housewife to PR genius, which happens in a blink and is given no support. “She could see he was coming around, just like they always did,” she thinks while meeting with an early client. These flaws are a pity because Dee shines when unveiling the inner workings of the PR industry, which is at once ubiquitous and obscure. When the author focuses on the ways in which public opinion is routinely manipulated, he gives a tantalizing glimpse at what might have been. Agent: Amanda Urban, ICM. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 01/14/2013
Release date: 03/12/2013
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FORMATS
Hardcover - 125 pages - 978-1-4721-0738-1
Hardcover - 288 pages - 978-1-4721-0852-4
Hardcover - 288 pages - 978-1-4721-0834-0
Open Ebook - 161 pages - 978-0-679-64500-9
Open Ebook - 1 pages - 978-1-299-27311-5
Paperback - 240 pages - 978-0-8129-8338-8
Hardcover - 274 pages - 978-1-84901-737-4
Hardcover - 274 pages - 978-1-4721-0833-3
Paperback - 384 pages - 978-1-4448-2215-1
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