The Old Romantic

The Old Romantic

352 pages; Riverhead Hardcover
Just about everyone who turns 18 dreams of changing their name and running off into the night, never to be seen again. But what if you actually did it and ended up, not on the mythical open road, but at the one of the best universities in the country? What if you became, not a rock star or famous painter, but a divorce lawyer, with all the stereotypical trappings; Range Rover, flashy flat, spa-addicted girlfriend? Deep into middle age, Nick finally comes home to confront/forgive/survive his long-abandoned father, Ken— one of the crankiest, cheapest, sourest, most foul-mouthed men on the planet, who's also begun to question his own life choices, due to a new friendship with an obese undertaker. What ensues goes far, far deeper than the repair of one familial relationship as Nick's brother, mother, stepmother, sister-in-law, girlfriend, ex-girlfriend, and old roommates from Cambridge get involved—each with his or her own versions of what happened when Nick disappeared in the past and each with his or her own role to play in his future. As a writer, Dean's gift is to make totally unappealing people intriguing, funny, vulnerable, and even lovable. You'll end up laughing (with glee!) as Nick, Nick's brother and his father Ken hit the road to chase down Ken's trod-upon ex-wife and his supposedly stolen 40,000 pounds, only to have your heart broken when Nick admits finally, "He wanted to be in the car with his family," remembering a childhood trip when "they came back from that cherry-pie pub....mouths full of After-Eight mints, his mother dispensing them from her handbag, fairly and squarely, and how he and his brother slept the sleep of angels in the back of the car, how sleep was never as good as that ever again, a rocking contentment, well fed, happy... lurching in and out of his tubby little brother and ending up at their favorite arrangement, where he had his head on his brother's back and his brother had his head on his lap." This is the genius of The Old Romantic, which captures so acutely those moments when our golden looks at the past brush up against with our black, bleak visions of the present, leaving us to decide which view, exactly, will permanently color the other—and ourselves.