Bar Maid

Daniel Roberts. Arcade, $26.99 (312p) ISBN 978-1-950994-27-4
Playwright Roberts debuts with an unpleasant novel about a world-weary college kid’s fixation on idealized love. Immature and prematurely jaded Charlie Green dreams of falling in love on his first day at Penn in 1987 and dropping out. Armed with his older brother’s dubious advice (“You don’t want to come across as rich. That’s a huge detriment in college”) and his New York City family’s money, he visits a down-at-the-heels oyster joint in Philadelphia and becomes infatuated with bartender Paula Henderson, 19. The next day, Charlie gets in a fight over Paula with her older boyfriend and narrowly wins. In the fallout, Paula decides to quit her job and head back to her hometown. A few months later, a shotgun wedding and impulsive honeymoon to Paris test the couple, and a miscarriage sows more doubts about the relationship. Charlie romanticizes Paula’s comparatively humble experience (“She’s between jobs. She goes to life,” he tells his mom), but Roberts fails to characterize her or the other female characters with any dimension. He also includes a glut of sophomoric jokes straight from one of the decade’s forgotten campus comedies (latex gloves are called “AIDS gloves,” Charlie wonders if a girl in a wheelchair is able to have sex), which doesn’t help. This attempt at portraying a precocious young man falls flat. (Nov.)
Reviewed on : 09/13/2021
Release date: 11/01/2021
Genre: Fiction
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