cover image Man Alive!

Man Alive!

Mary Kay Zuravleff. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $27 (304p) ISBN 978-0-374-20231-6

“What a fragile ecosystem a family is.” Zuravleff’s (The Bowl Is Already Broken) novel is a half-wacky, half-sobering portrait of a family headed off the rails. When child psychiatrist Dr. Owen Lerner is struck by lightning at a parking meter, the fallout affects the other Lerners—21-year-old twins Ricky and Will, their 16-year-old sister Brooke, and mom Toni—in more ways than one. As Owen slowly recovers, instead of treating his patients and acting normal, he nurses newfound obsessions with grilling and raising chickens, both of which make his family more unhinged. The boys latch onto unhealthy diversions—for Will, it’s drugs and booze; Ricky develops a quixotic crush on his professor and her husband—while Brooke grows closer to her domineering boyfriend. When faced with Owen’s antics (like a new tattoo that will mark him as “belonging to the lightning”), it’s all Toni can do to keep from leaving the marriage. At times, Owen’s kooky predicament threatens to overpower other subplots, especially those that arguably warrant more attention. But the question throughout remains: which Lerner is the sanest one? Agent: Sarah Burnes, Gernert Company. (Sept. 3)