How to Cope with Suburban Stress

David Galef, Author . Permanent $28 (271p) ISBN 978-1-57962-131-5

Galef's third novel, a fractured tale of suburban angst and ennui, revolves around the marital difficulties of Michael Eisler, a psychiatrist who constantly squabbles with his domineering executive wife, Jane, at the expense of the mental health of their prepubescent son, Alex, who slowly sinks into a depression. Meanwhile, in a ham-fisted subplot, budding pedophile Ted Sacks loses his job as a data recovery specialist and slips further into the seedy chatroom-centric realm of would-be child molesters. He soon grows tired of chatting about molesting "boyz" and begins stalking them in Alex's neighborhood. The doomed marriage plot, though familiar, is sharply drawn, but Galef's style doesn't lend itself to the thriller format used to render Sacks's clumsy moves toward abducting Alex. The climax contains some frighteningly tense moments when Sacks brings the boy back to his apartment, but the book limps through its saccharine dénouement. Galef's subtle portrayal of domestic tension makes for a worthwhile read, but pedophiles are hard to write, and Sacks, unfortunately, is no Humbert Humbert. (Aug.)

Reviewed on: 05/15/2006
Release date: 08/01/2006
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