cover image Two Guys from Verona: A Novel of Suburbia

Two Guys from Verona: A Novel of Suburbia

James Kaplan / Author Atlantic Monthly Press $25 (256p) ISBN 9

The two guys of the book's title are Will and Joel, childhood friends whose lives have gone in opposite directions. Will is the successful heir to a box-manufacturing company (he calls himself the ""cardboard-box prince""). Married to a beautiful lawyer and the father of two adorable children, Will is concerned with his portfolio and affording a house in an even better neighborhood. Joe, on the other hand, works behind the counter at a sub shop, lives with his chain-smoking mother and spends his free time driving around town in his bombed-out Impala. What Will and Joel share is a long friendship and a lifetime spent in Verona, N.J., a heavily Jewish suburb looking apprehensively toward the 21st century. As this ironically observed and engaging novel shows, the seemingly placid Verona has its share of sharp curves and lingering ghosts. Their 25th high-school reunion brings old figures back into their lives, and both Will and Joel are ambushed by abrupt changes. Will's carefully constructed existence falls apart under the burden of an affair and sudden financial difficulties, while Joel must confront the sources of his decades-long paralysis. At his best, Kaplan (Pearl's Progress) sounds like a Jewish Updike, drawing a vivid set of characters from the sterile suburbs. The ending wraps up a bit predictably, but Kaplan's sense of the suburban mind (in all its variations) is right on. (Feb.) FYI: The Airport, Kaplan's nonfiction portrait of JFK International Airport, was reissued last year in paperback by Quill.