- Gentlemen, start your drones: Judge’s ruling opens door for commercial use
- Soldier who hid, bragged about not saluting flag to be punished — in secret
- ‘Maverick’ of the seas: ‘Top Gun’ school for U.S. ship officers to launch
- Putin declares Sochi Paralympics open amid Ukrainian protest
- ‘In Jesus name, we pray’ sparks ire at Ohio council meeting
- Navy’s first laser weapon ready for prime time; drone killer to deploy this summer
- Billionaire backer: Rick Santorum ‘needs to be heard’ in 2016
- Obamacare fallout: 49 percent pessimistic; 45 percent ‘scared’
- DHS accused of holding U.S. citizen at airport, using emails to pry into her sex life
- Seattle socialist: Minimum-wage discussion skewed by ‘right-wing’ GAO analysis
BOOK REVIEW: ‘Say Nice Things About Detroit’
SAY NICE THINGS ABOUT DETROIT
By Scott Lasser
W.W. Norton, $25.95, 267 pages
Unlike Thomas Wolfe (“You Can’t Go Home Again”) or Robert Frost (“Home is the place where when you have to go there they have to take you in”), David Halpert, the protagonist of Scott Lasser’s fourth novel, believes he can find true happiness by returning to the place of his birth. However, in David’s case, that place is Detroit, which, by most if not all current accounts is, as a place to live, the metropolitan equivalent of toast.
“They fled,” the opening paragraph informs us. “Tom Phillips to Orlando, Brady Johnson to Dallas, Jeff Lombardo to Chicago, Tim Forrester to L.A. David couldn’t think of a single friend from high school who still lived in Detroit, or anywhere near it. David himself had moved to Denver, but now he was back.”
But David’s return was hardly inspired by nostalgia. He came back because his mother has dementia and his father needs help caring for her.
Good son David hadn’t expected to stay, but on his first day back he picks up a newspaper and sees the face of Natalie, his former serious girlfriend, staring back at him from the front page. Natalie, who, like David, is white, has been killed, along with her black half brother Dirk, a retired FBI agent. Their bodies were found in his E-Class Mercedes-Benz, which was parked in a rough neighborhood.
David, who is well-acquainted with death, having lost his 12-year-old son four years ago, calls the family to offer his condolences. The phone is answered by Carolyn, Natalie’s younger sister, who is back for the double funeral and who remembers him fondly.
David is divorced, and Carolyn might as well be, given the level of her ennui. They agree to meet for drinks, and then again for dinner, and, well, we’re all adults here so you know what happens next.
Once Carolyn returns to Los Angeles, where she lives with her no-longer-satisfying husband and her whiny teenage son, the novel’s necessary conflict has been established. If she gets a divorce, will she come back, and if she comes back will she stay? David definitely wants to be with her, but he wants to be with her in Detroit, which he is finding increasingly enjoyable.
Very early in their relationship — well, affair actually — he tells Carolyn he’s thinking of moving back.
“‘It’s home ,’” he explains, ‘where I’m from. It seems like a silly, hopeless thing to do, so maybe it will work out for me.’”
“‘It’s like moving back to Hiroshima,’ she said.
“‘People live there now, I’m pretty sure.’ In the darkness he thought he saw her smile, or grimace. It didn’t matter which. He had made a decision.”
When David interviews for a job with a law firm (being an estate planner means he can work in any large city), even the partner who interviews him finds it hard to believe he’s returning to Detroit on purpose. But David perseveres, gets the job and settles in happily. Next on his to-do list is to get Carolyn to come back.
She does, but leaves, and then comes back again. The affair continues, and when Carolyn is back in California she discovers she’s carrying David’s child. Determined to have the baby, she tells her husband what has happened, and that the baby is not his. They agree to end the marriage.
To Carolyn’s surprise, David is thrilled at the news. He urges her to move back to Detroit and to marry him. She does the former and hesitates regarding the latter. I’ll not reveal her eventual decision.
Taxpayers must pay the freight for over-budget train projects
- Kim Jong-un calls for execution of 33 Christians
- Rand Paul wins 2014 CPAC straw poll, Ted Cruz finishes a distant second
- Bill Clinton cashes in on struggling nonprofit hospital
- Paul takes veiled shot at Cruz, says GOP must focus on growth
- Bill Clinton poses for photo with Bunny Ranch prostitutes
- Obama engages in Ukraine diplomacy from Fla. resort as Russia digs in
- U.S. pilot scares off Iranians with 'Top Gun'-worthy stunt: 'You really ought to go home'
- EDITORIAL: As jobs vanish, Obama wants more of same
- CPAC 2014 straw poll results
- CARSON: Why did the founders give us the Second Amendment?
Pope Francis meets his 'mini-me'
Celebrity deaths in 2014
Winter storm hits states — again