Sunday, July 31, 2016

Carousel Court

Carousel Court by Joe McGinniss Jr.
Simon & Schuster: 8/2/16
eBook review copy; 368 pages
ISBN-13: 9781476791272

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 Instead Nick's job offer was withdrawn once they arrived and Phoebe (let's just call her Klonopin) is (hardly) working as a pharmaceutical drug rep.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.

Disclosure: My advanced reading copy was courtesy of the publisher for review purposes.

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