This story about a kidnapper struggling to make sense of his world met with a frosty critical reception upon its publication (“a predictable and tiresome piece of fiction,” according to the New York Times). The book lacks the raw emotional honesty of Eggers’ earlier work, but the intellectualization (maybe overintellectualization?) of personal philosophical questions is still worth spending time with.
Stylistically, the book will alienate some readers. It’s written entirely in dialogue (shades of Philip Roth), and it’s not shy about delving into that arcane little place where poetry and rational meaning must intersect if we want to be truly honest about the human experience. There’s plenty of humor and pathos to make the themes of personal displacement and disconnection palatable. The bad reviews missed the point. This story won’t change the world, but it’s not meant to. It’s more like a slice of alienated life in America in the 21st century. Reviewed on May 6, 2022