A Calling for Charlie Barnes

Joshua Ferris. Little, Brown, $28 (352p) ISBN 978-0-316-33353-5
NBA and Booker finalist Ferris (To Rise Again at a Decent Hour) returns with a compassionate metafictional portrait of a flawed father and his crumbling notion of the America dream. Jake Barnes, the sincere but unreliable narrator, sets out to recount the life of his dad, Charlie Barnes, aka “Steady Boy,” a corporate gadfly and small business schemer who never made it through college. After multiple marriages, a few kids, and countless failed ideas for making it big—clowns and weedkiller, flying toupees—Steady Boy is working from his basement when he’s diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Jake takes it upon himself to gather his older brother Jerry and his resentful half sister Marcy, both of whom believe Steady Boy is a fraud. Ferris makes the quotidian sing, such as Jake’s description of a “thundering, brain-clearing sneeze” while Steady Boy retrieves the morning paper from the curb. Ferris also flirts with a cheesy happy ending, until it becomes likely that this, too, is a fraud, prompting readers to wonder if Ferris is toying with them via Jake, who channels his namesake from The Sun Also Rises, he of the Lost Generation who no longer believes in anything. Despite the heavy subject matter, the story is often quite funny, and the themes at its core are those that will forever preoccupy humankind: purpose and death, but, mostly, love. Of Ferris’s work, this is the big kahuna. (Sept.)
Reviewed on : 07/01/2021
Release date: 09/28/2021
Genre: Fiction
Compact Disc - 978-1-4789-2890-4
Paperback - 352 pages - 978-0-316-33354-2
Pre-Recorded Audio Player - 978-1-6686-0644-5
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