The Radicals

Ryan McIlvain. Hogarth, $26 (288p) ISBN 978-0-553-41788-3
In McIlvain’s splendid second novel (following Elders), the blissful rootlessness of narrator Eli, a 28-year-old graduate student, makes the novel a kind of adventure story of friendship and betrayal, in the same vein as On the Road. Eli is a socially conscious academic at NYU. His observations are casual but incisive, strewn with both scholarly and pop culture references including Sartre, Trotsky, Nadal, and Legoland. It’s in a Marxist theory class that Eli meets magnetic and impulsive Sam Westergard. Their friendship, fueled as much by adrenaline as righteousness, takes a leap when Eli flies with Sam to Phoenix to help single mother Maria Nava, who’s fighting eviction at the hands of an evil corporation named Soline. In no time, Eli is canvassing door-to-door, and activists of all stripes are pouring in, with disparate agendas. Heretofore, Eli’s stances on social justice and activism have been mostly theoretical; he’s totally unprepared for the mess and danger of real activism. Eli’s commitment attracts his volatile ex Alex, whose affair with Sam puts a wrench in the bromance, not to mention Eli’s engagement to his fiancee, Jen. McIlvain’s prose is effortless and sharply perceptive; this is a consistently engrossing and thoroughly enjoyable novel. Agent: PJ Mark, Janklow & Nesbit Associates. (Feb.)

Reviewed on: 12/18/2017
Release date: 02/13/2018
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