Beware the Man of the Year. You may praise him, resent him, even want to be him: but beneath the elegant trappings that define him, danger looms. Caroline Louise Walker’s stunning debut novel, for fans of Herman Koch’s The Dinner and Shari Lapena’s The Couple Next Door, delves into the increasingly paranoid mind of a man whose life as the most upstanding of citizens hides a relentlessly dark heart.
Dr. Robert Hart, Sag Harbor’s just-named Man of the Year, is the envy of his friends and neighbors. His medical practice is thriving. He has a beautiful old house and a beautiful new wife and a beautiful boat docked in the village marina. Even his wayward son, Jonah, is back on track, doing well at school, finally worthy of his father’s attentions. So when Jonah’s troubled college roommate, Nick, needs a place to stay for the summer, Hart and his wife generously offer him their guest house. A win-win: Jonah will have someone to hang with, and his father can bask in the warm glow of his own generosity.
But when he begins to notice his new houseguest getting a little too close to his wife, the good doctor’s veneer begins to crack. All the little lies Robert tells—harmless falsehoods meant to protect everything he holds dear—begin to mount. Before long, he’s embroiled in a desperate downward spiral, destroying the lives that stand in his way. It’s only the women in his life—his devoted office manager, his friends, his wife—who can clearly see the truth.
Biting and timely, Man of the Year races along at an electric pace, with a wicked twist that you won’t see coming.
It’s been a long time since I’ve stumbled across a book that’s left me wondering whether I enjoyed it or not. That’s a weird sort of pace to be, right? But it’s where I’m at right now with Man of the Year.
On one hand, it started slowly, almost too slowly. Normally that’s not an issue for me because I read a lot of epic fantasy and they almost always drag a bit at the start. But nothing really happened to engage me until midway through the book. That’s a bit too long for me normally, but I was curious who the guilty party was, so I stuck with it. Something else that bugs me is that at the end, you’re left unsure what really did happen to Nick.
On the upside, practically every character is hiding something and that always makes for good intrigue. You’re not sure who is being honest and who isn’t. Also, the did they/didn’t they that goes on with two particular characters got my attention. Finding out the truth to that tidbit was one of the things that kept me reading. While none of the characters were particularly likable, that’s not an automatic dislike for me either. Honestly, it’s a credit to the author to write awful characters and still keep the reader engaged. That was definitely the case here, so kudos for that.
In the end, Man of the Year was well worth the read, despite my frustrations with the ending. All the town gossip and seeing how small communities worked in the modern day was fascinating to me, since I’ve never lived in anything other than a large city. I’m curious to see what the author’s next book brings and I’ll definitely be on the lookout for it. I love a book that makes me feel complicated things and causes me to think about what I’ve read.
*Thanks to Netgalley, the author, and the publisher for a copy of the book in exchange for a fair review.