The Violet Family Puts the Fun in Dysfunction
I'm happy my book club chose this domestic comedy--a funny and interesting read that kept me turning the pages. Tom Violet is a 35 year old married father of one who hates
his stupid corporate job. However, he isn't quite ready to risk trying to publish the novel he's written the past seven years, especially with a father who just won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction.
Tom's easy humor makes him imminently likable. It's no surprise one of his favorite authors is Richard Russo since I could see the similar sense of dry wit and sarcasm. Here Tom reveals his competence as a father:I can see by my daughter's expression that she'll do whatever she damn well pleases. By now she's old enough to know that we're not going to beat her, so she's pretty much got the run of the place.
When Tom's mother asks him about his manuscript, he replies:"It's a period piece. A team of crime-fighting lesbians travel back in time to assassinate Hitler."
Ha ha! Tom suspects his schoolteacher wife of cheating on him, and tells his friend about the suspect while they hit golf balls:"You should've seen that book he gave her, man. Kids writing essays about how great reading is. It was like something out of a John Cusack movie. He'll probably show up at my house next week in the rain holding a f-ing ghetto blaster over his head."
When Tom gets revenge on his meddling, clueless manager, it's the stuff of dreams for every person who's worked in an Office Space environment. Here's the headline of Tom's press release:STUPID AMERICAN COMPANY NAMES EMPTY-HEADED, OPPORTUNISITiC, UTTERLY UNCREATIVE DOUCHE BAG AS NEW VICE PRESIDENT OF U.S. MARKETING
I really enjoyed the relationship arc between Tom and his famous-writer father Curtis. There were a couple of twists that surprised me, but their characterization felt real and solid. Curtis is a philanderer and womanizer, but when it really counts, he gives Tom excellent advice about his wife Anna:"Don't be an idiot," he says. "Anna is the sort of woman who writers write about, Tom. Somewhere in the third act, women like her save characters like you and me from ourselves. She's the loveliest literary device in the word. So get your ass out of this room right now and go tell her that she doesn't have to be with anyone else. Because you love her, and because you're not going anywhere. And mean it."
In some ways this is a novel about writing good novels, and Matthew Norman seems to have it down pat.