cover image The Foursome

The Foursome

John D. Spooner. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH), $21 (401pp) ISBN 978-0-395-41952-6

Spooner's latest (after Sex and Money ) attempts to illuminate a generation by ranging over a span of 40 years in the lives of four men: brash Red Singer, rich Freddie Temple, ambitious Duke Hennessey and insecure Dickie Rosenberg. Natives of the same Boston suburb but of very different religious and class backgrounds, they rise from jobs as golf caddies at age 13 to business success in their chosen fields of real estate development, film producing, investment banking and apparel manufacturing. In a series of anecdotes linked by periodic golf matches, the novel traces their years in high school and college, their struggles to reach the top (and the price paid by each) their marriages and divorces, business achievements and failures, dreams and ambitions--and, most of all, their efforts to best one another. While Spooner hints at discerning observations, his characters' competitiveness limits their appeal and keeps the reader from understanding what bonds them. Spooner buries any insights he might have in a string of anecdotes and unfocused dialogue, skimming quickly over an odd mix of tones and messages. Most damaging, the plot's pivotal event lacks credibility and thus narrative power. (Mar.)