Friday, April 3, 2009

"Now You See Him" by Eli Gottlieb

Nick Framingham is having a difficult time dealing with the death of his childhood friend, Rob Castor. Rob was like a brother to Nick, one of the few kids at school who didn't treat him like the nerd he was. As they got older and went to college, they began to drift apart. Nick got married, had two boys of his own, got a steady job, and settled down in their hometown of Monarch. Rob wrote a bestseller and moved to New York City, bringing a different girl with him every time he returned to the little burg, but eventually dating Kate Pierce, also a writer. Everything seemed to be golden for Rob, right up until the moment that the people of Monarch learned of an unthinkable murder-suicide involving their favorite son.

Nick begins to explore his own life through his memories of Rob, and what he finds isn't pretty. His marriage is on the downhill slide. His job is rote. His boys appear to love their mother more than they love him. In fact, he doesn't seem to have much of a life, which is why he has such a hard time coming to terms with Rob's actions. After all, Rob appeared to have "made it" - how could he throw it all away and in such a horrible fashion?

The truth is, of course, that Rob was not living a fairytale existence. As is typical in real life, people saw what they wanted to see. As a trial unfolds (Kate's parents bring a lawsuit of some sort, one that is never really fully explained), it is revealed that Rob was suffering from writer's block. Not only that, Kate was having an affair with a much older man, one who helped further her own writing career. There are other revelations about Rob and Kate, things that make it all the stranger to the people of Monarch that events unfolded the way they did. And the truth is that Nick is about to learn not only a great deal of information about Rob, but also about himself. Was Rob really who he said he was? Is Nick really who he thinks he is?

This was what I would call a "literary read", a quiet book that requires a bit more attention and thought than some. I like the way the author worked around to the ending, but I can't say that I thought it was necessarily a "good book". I found a few of the revelations of Nick's life to be cliched and could pretty much see them revealed long before they really were. The use of first-person narrative was a wise choice, though; it allows the author to reveal only as much information as our protagonist uncovers. Overall, a decent read, and one to pick up if you're looking for something a bit more substantial than the latest bestseller.

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