The Dismal Science

Peter Mountford. Tin House (PGW, dist.), $15.95 trade paper (288p) ISBN 978-1-935639-72-5
Fans of Louis Begley’s About Schmidt and other thoughtfully written novels about the male midlife crisis will appreciate Mountford’s second novel (after A Young Man’s Guide to Late Capitalism). Here he has traded in his “young man” for an older one: 54-year-old Vincenzo D’Orsi, a vice president at the World Bank. A widower with an adult daughter who lives in Brooklyn, N.Y. (with all the requisite piercings and views on the geopolitical scene that run counter to her father’s), Vincenzo lives quietly in Bethesda, Md.—until the day that he makes an unpopular pronouncement at work regarding the new government in Bolivia. Before you can say John Maynard Keynes, Vincenzo finds himself taking early retirement and trying to figure out what to do with the rest of his life. Should he move to New York and go to work for Lehman Brothers? Join a think tank? Go to Bolivia and make a speech? He gets advice on the subject from his daughter; his best friend, Walter (a Washington Post columnist); his attractive Bolivian press liaison, Lenka; and a mysterious black man, Ben, who may or may not work for the CIA. How Vincenzo manages to navigate this new life without nets forms the emotional core of the novel, which intelligently explores his roiled inner life. In the end, Mountford has written a distinctively entertaining novel that illuminates the spiritual odyssey of a contemporary Dodsworth. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 09/16/2013
Release date: 01/01/2014
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