cover image Heroes of the Frontier

Heroes of the Frontier

Dave Eggers. Knopf, $28.95 (400p) ISBN 978-0-451-49380-4

The frontier in Eggers’s (The Circle) appealing and affecting new novel is Alaska, but also, arguably, the adventures of its heroine, Josie. The core of the novel is relatable to anyone who has thought about suddenly starting over in an unknown place—which is to say, just about everyone. Thirty-something Josie has abruptly abandoned her failing dental practice and conventional life in Ohio, in search of something she can’t exactly define but knows that she needs. The move is a little less outrageous than it first appears, because Josie’s older sister, Sam, lives there, in a town called Homer. On the other hand, Josie has two young children, the fussy Ana and the old-beyond-his-years Paul. Eggers doesn’t tell the reader much about Josie’s Ohio life right away, except that she’s broken up with the children’s father, Carl, and has not yet told the children. In this way, the reader remains a bit unmoored throughout, which simulates Josie’s state of mind: she’s making it up as she goes along. For example, not having made smart financial calculations, she finds herself spending like a drunken sailor and constantly recalibrating her plan to explain this new situation to the children. Eggers’s shaggy plot may not be to all tastes, but his writing is fresh and full of empathy, his observations on modern society apt and insightful. 150,000-copy announced first printing. (July)