A Stranger on the Planet

Adam Schwartz, Soho, $24 (304p) ISBN 978-1-56947-869-1
Schwartz's debut novel is the touching and funny account of Seth Shapiro's dysfunctional but lovable family beginning in 1969, six years after his parents' traumatic divorce. His father starts a new family, but Seth and his twin sister and younger brother are left to deal with their unstable mother, Ruth—a devoted but self-absorbed woman who relies on her children for emotional support, picks the wrong men, and is always putting her foot in her mouth. Seth's adolescent embarrassment over his mother is both comical and uncomfortably familiar, and Schwartz captures these feelings with self-effacing, caustic wit. Scarred by his childhood, Seth struggles for decades with intimate relationships, and when he finally marries Molly, "the love of his life," he can't appreciate her. A tragedy brings the family back together, and amid the dry humor and the raw pain, there are some truly beautiful images. But while the balance between wit and emotion is sharply on point for most of the novel, the final third drifts into melancholy. While this does reflect Seth's newfound ability to communicate his emotions, it feels overwrought and out of sync from the sound narrative of the book's beginnings. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 11/08/2010
Release date: 01/01/2011
Genre: Fiction
Open Ebook - 155 pages - 978-1-56947-870-7
Paperback - 336 pages - 978-1-61695-053-8
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