cover image Excelsior


Randall Silvis. Henry Holt & Company, $0 (293pp) ISBN 978-0-8050-0440-3

John Bloomhardt, the hapless hero of this engaging first novel, is 34 years old and suffering from a pervasive malaise. He works as an accountant in an office that is pure bedlam, a dumping ground for besotted deadbeats and demented practical jokers. His marriage offers him little solace. His wife Annie's selfless and bovine devotion only serves to drive him deeper and deeper into guilt and outbursts of sarcasm and cruelty. He genuinely loves his six-year-old son Timmy, but finds the child distant, perhaps a little afraid of him. It is no surprise, then, that he decides to take temporary leave of his family. But when Bloomhardt decides to return to the nest, the prodigal husband finds that his wife, having undergone assertiveness training, has now experienced a change of heartand personalityand has filed for divorce. The narrative recounts Bloomhardt's ""redemption,'' his coming-to-terms with his own vulnerability and the strength of his marriage. What sounds like a predictable cautionary tale is transformed into a funny and often touching fable through the author's gift for tart comic dialogue and screwball invention. It's a ruefully comic, entertaining and ultimately impressive novel by the author of the Drue Heinz Literature Prize-winning short story collection, The Luckiest Man in the World. (March)