Wichita

Thad Ziolkowski. Europa, $15 trade paper (256p) ISBN 978-1-60945-070-0
Guggenheim fellow Ziolkowski’s first serious jump from poetry to fiction tells the story of Lewis, a recent graduate returning from the Ivy League to his hometown of Wichita, Kans. An offhand, remote tone mirrors his aimless detachment after he deliberately turns his back on the academic life his father and grandparents wanted for him and moves back into his mother’s house. Lewis’s mother, Abby, is a New Ager starting a business chaperoning storm-chasing tourists. She’s also in a polyamorous experiment, and her house is full of offbeat characters, including an ageing hippie who is making psychedelic drugs. The novel ambles along affably enough while Lewis takes stock of his problems: the futility of trying to please his father; his younger, bipolar brother Seth, who seems on the brink of a breakdown; and the ex-girlfriend he still loves taking up with his nemesis, a rich, entitled Rhodes scholar. Throughout, Seth’s manic behavior amps up, Lewis plans his escape from Kansas, and Abby continues her alternative lifestyle alongside her two sons, until a true storm sweeps through, forcing the three of them to face the tensions they’ve been avoiding. Solidly captivating, and subtly twisted. Agent: Ryan Harbage, Fischer-Harbage Agency. (May)
Reviewed on: 03/19/2012
Release date: 04/24/2012
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