cover image HUMAN CAPITAL

HUMAN CAPITAL

Stephen Amidon, Author . Farrar, Straus & Giroux $25 (384p) IS

A starred review indicates a book of outstanding quality. A review with a blue-tinted title indicates a book of unusual commercial interest that hasn't received a starred review .

HUMAN CAPITAL Stephen Amidon . Farrar, Straus & Giroux , $25 (384p) ISBN 0-374-17350-8

Tensions, lies and hypocrisy lurk beneath the cool exteriors of Totten Crossing, Conn., in this fine new novel of suburbia from Amidon (The New City ; Subdivision ). In an effort to keep up with the Joneses, fading real estate broker Drew Hagel sinks all his money into a hedge fund that goes bust. Meanwhile, his second wife, psychologist Ronnie, is pregnant with twins, and his teenage daughter, Shannon, is experiencing first love with Ian, one of Ronnie's young patients, whose mother died of cancer when he was 14, leaving him a large sum of insurance money that he will inherit when he turns 18. Ian's uncle, David, a decent man with few prospects, plans on using the inheritance to fulfill his dream of owning a bar in North Carolina. Finally, Carrie Manning has grown restless and uncomfortable with her broker husband's wealth and embarks on a brief affair. All these lives collide on one fateful night when Ian accidentally strikes and kills a bicyclist while driving home from an end-of-year high school party; the vehicle belongs to Jamie, Carrie's hard-drinking teenage son. It all sounds a bit like Peyton Place , but Amidon's intentions are far more serious. Writing with a sociologist's insight, he crafts a sharp page-turner mined with moments of dark satire. Amidon's previous novels had moments of profundity, but this exceptional novel delves deeper and more passionately into the fractured lives of people whose lives revolve around money. Its impact lingers long after the final credits roll. Agent, Henry Dunow. (Oct.)

Forecast: A blurb from Tom Perrotta ( Little Children) should attract the right readers and help raise Amidon's profile. Booksellers can recommend the novel to fans of Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections, too.