cover image It Feels So Good When I Stop

It Feels So Good When I Stop

Joe Pernice, . . Riverhead, $25.95 (273pp) ISBN 978-1-59448-874-0

Much like its unnamed narrator, Pernice’s first novel ambles in no discernable direction, nudging up against tantalizing stories but never quite connecting. In it, the narrator retreats to a Cape Cod cabin, owned by his sister’s ex-husband, after fleeing a days-old marriage. He then spends his time interacting with townsfolk; reminiscing about Jocelyn, his abandoned bride; babysitting his infant nephew; and assisting an alluring neighbor in coming to terms with her tragic past. The author, a noted musician, seeks to emphasize the ordinariness of his main character by leaving him anonymous, but the man is not ordinary at all—he is, in fact, pathologically aimless. He can never quite say why he left Jocelyn and has no idea what he hopes to accomplish in his exile; worse, there is no sense that he has any desire to find out. The main supporting characters, ex-brother-in-law James and neighbor Marie, are more compelling than the narrator, but of course their scenes are marred by the narrator’s necessary presence. Pernice’s easygoing prose is attractive, but the fetishizing of slackerdom is a make-or-break proposition. (Aug.)