James Magnuson, Author Villard Books $23.95 (304p) ISBN 978-0-375-50210-1
For an ordinary man presented with a high-stakes, life-changing dilemma, sometimes a windfall is not a blessing but rather a complicated curse. Novelist (Money Mountain) and TV writer (Knots Landing) Magnuson demonstrates this compelling premise with the psychologically acute tale of middle-aged college professor Ben Lindberg, as he struggles to support his wife and two children on his modest university salary in Austin, Tex., where he teaches literature. One night, when Ben goes looking for the family cat, he finds himself in the basement of an abandoned feed store, where he discovers seven coolers stuffed with neatly packaged $50 bills, amounting to millions of dollars. After a few days' reflection, Ben loads the coolers into his car and takes them to a storage unit, thus setting off a chain reaction of lies and duplicity that ultimately threatens the modest but meaningful life he's built for himself and his family. His predicament: How can he use all that cash in a virtually cashless society? Dan Sweeney, a swaggering student and entrepreneur, provides a clue. Charming and malevolent, Sweeney is taking Ben's Transcendentalist class called ""How to Live,"" but in fact it is he who leads his teacher to a furtive and suspect course of his own devising. Ben buys treats he could never have afforded--$100 gym shoes for his son, a blow-out birthday dinner for his wife. But the lies and anxiety are getting to him: he knows whoever left the money will be back. The danger in which he has put his family, the need to hide and re-hide the money and his metastasizing web of deceit ""work its way into him like a slow-moving poison."" Magnuson explores the risks and treacheries of greed in a perfectly rendered university setting--delightfully incongruous surroundings for Ben's perilous gamble. And he deepens the layers of clever parallels, one of which is that Ben is writing a book about how Emerson and Thoreau's relationship was destroyed by deceit. Magnuson's first novel in a decade is well worth the wait. 75,000 first printing; major ad/promo; author tour. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 02/01/1999
Release date: 02/01/1999
Genre: Fiction
Open Ebook - 181 pages - 978-0-307-57422-0
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