cover image Pretend All Your Life

Pretend All Your Life

Rebecca Kai Dotlich, . . Permanent, $26 (200pp) ISBN 978-1-57962-196-4

Mackin's bleak debut traces six disastrous days in the life of Dr. Richard Gallin, a plastic surgeon living in post-9/11 New York City. Gallin is besieged on all fronts: his practice is hemorrhaging money, his personal life is in shambles, he is the subject of an upcoming exposé for his decision to fire an HIV-positive assistant, and his case of middle-aged ennui is compounded by the death of his son, Bernardo, who worked in one of the twin towers. As Mackin puts the screws to Gallin, things quickly go from bad to worse. Gallin is a grade-A jerk and is so rooted in the past that his present barely exists, and while Mackin has a hard time building sympathy for him, the secondary characters are reliably excellent and provide the book's best moments. By the end, old sorrows will be aired again and combined with fresh disasters as the troupe of damaged New Yorkers stumble toward the tragic conclusion. (Apr.)