by Joe Pernice
The nameless narrator, having walked out on his rocky and three-days-old marriage in New York, stays at his brother-in-law James’ Cape Cod house that stands empty following James’ own impending divorce from the narrator’s sister. Looking after his baby nephew to make ends meet, tooling around Cape Cod on a rusty, undersize bicycle his sister rode as child, he thinks back to how he and his wife met and the course their relationship took, while in the present he meets a fragile young woman who wants him to help her make a home movie about her dead son.
The narrator was in a band that went nowhere, and Pernice, a hip indie singer-songwriter himself, seeps the book in media cool: earnest appreciation of good music in all its forms, from Doris Day and Mel Tormé to the Chills and the Frogs; name-dropping Tom T. Hall, Teenage Fanclub, Todd Rundgren, Ross McElwee, Mudhoney, Errol Morris, Nick Drake. Lou Barlow even appears briefly to meet the protagonist after a show. The narrator’s internal monologue is a peppered with self-deprecating one-liners (“Everything I knew about how fucked up the music business was came from a story about Fugazi I’d skimmed in ‘Magnet’”) and cynical observations (“I poked at the food like I was examining a pet’s stool for an ingested coin”). I’m probably the exact target audience for this sort of prose, and I found it to be an engaging, if ultimately lightweight, novel. The narrator’s meandering musings on how little he’s done with his life and whether he’s permanently damaged his relationship with his wife are bittersweet and amusing. It’s not exactly the final word on the human condition, but moving in its way.