cover image My Father’s Diet

My Father’s Diet

Adrian Nathan West. And Other Stories, $16.95 trade paper (208p) ISBN 978-1-913505-22-6

The teenage narrator of critic and translator West’s accomplished debut has grown up almost entirely devoid of paternal guidance, but he’s had it with his mother’s weirdo boyfriend, so he seeks out his long-estranged father—and quickly winds up witness to one of the most explosive, insane midlife crises in recent literary history. First there’s Dad’s younger wife, Karen, who cajoles her husband into cofunding a holistic health center whose unappealing acronym “CESID” portends its inevitable failure. When divorce follows the center’s implosion, Dad decides to enroll in the Body You Choose competition, a bodybuilding venture designed for late-blooming meatheads, which is exactly as sketchy as it sounds. The ensuing comedy of diets, supplements, estrogen blockers, and drug routines are Rabelaisian in their variety and extremity. And it’s not like the narrator doesn’t have his own problems, struggling to balance his lackadaisical French studies with work and his mostly-but-maybe-not-ex-girlfriend Fox; in the end, he can only register a fine mélange of pity and admiration of his father’s newfound lease on life, as long as his father doesn’t kill himself in the process. Tender, sardonic, and endearingly grotesque, this coming-of-age body horror makes easy work of the heavy lifting. (Feb.)