Carousel Court by Joe McGinniss Jr.
Simon & Schuster: 8/2/16
eBook review copy; 368 pages
Carousel Court by Joe McGinniss Jr. is a bleak, unflinching look
at a contemporary marriage falling apart. It is recommended for only a
select group of readers - those who appreciate dark, disturbing literary
fiction with overtones of hopelessness and plenty of self-medication.
It was a so-so read for me, but the writing is very good.
Nick and Phoebe Maguire are a young married couple who have relocated
with their young son from Boston to Southern California to live their
dream. Instead Nick's job offer was withdrawn once they arrived and
Phoebe (let's just call her Klonopin) is (hardly) working as a
pharmaceutical drug rep. They had bought an expensive home, expecting to
ride the tide of buying and flipping houses for a profit. Instead they
joined the ranks of those who are upside down in their mortgages in a
neighborhood full of abandoned homes and foreclosures. Their
neighborhood is one of civil disorder and financial ruin, where
neighbors set fire to their belongings and one lives, well-armed, in a
tent in the front yard.
Nick is working for EverythingMustGo!, a company where movers/employees
clean out foreclosed homes for banks. This leads him to a plan to make
money. Simultaneously, Klonopin (Phoebe), who is constantly popping
pills and maintaining a drugged out high, is in contact with JW, her
previous boss/lover in Boston. Their son, Jackson, lives at daycare or
with a sitter most of the time.
For those of you, like me, who have no idea what Klonopin is, it is the
brand name of the drug Clonazepam which is a medication used to prevent
and treat seizures, panic disorder, and
for the movement disorder known as akathisia. It is a tranquilizer of
the benzodiazepine class. It is also mentioned on almost every page, and
Klonopin (Phoebe) is constantly popping multiple tablets, often with
alcohol. This constant mention of her taking Klonopin became annoying.
Very annoying. Distractedly annoying.
Combining the explosive, turbulent, abusive, and combative relationship
of Nick and Klonopin with the neglect of their son, and add the bleak,
hopeless, dangerous and almost surreal atmosphere and you have a novel
with some extremely unlikable, damaged people in an setting the mirrors
and magnifies their worst traits. She's high all the time and regards
Nick with contempt and disdain. He obsesses over grabbing her jaw, which
sort of creeped me out. They aren't good together and have absolutely
no moral compass or sense of working together to overcome anything.
The quality of McGinniss's prose managed to keep me reading with a sense
of disgust and urgency about these two people I loathed, a major feat.
I have to give kudos for establishing their characters and keeping them
true to form with the inevitable approaching train wreck. He left me
thinking, "People suck." Three stars for the writing, but don't read
this without being warned about the ominous tone.
My advanced reading copy was courtesy
of the publisher for review