By Adam Haslett
320 pages; Doubleday
If novelists are in charge of telling us who we are—as individuals, as a society—then Adam Haslett (author of the 2002 story collection You Are Not a Stranger Here
) has become a novelist. His debut, Union Atlantic
, is set at a fictional bank headquartered in Boston, a crude and shaky financial behemoth where Doug Fanning, an ex-navy man and now a corporate monster, cannot stop taking, destroying, winning. Doug makes the mistake of building an ostentatious house on the land next door to Charlotte Graves, an old woman gone somewhat insane (her monologues, spoken and interior, are the most inspired and provocative passages of the book). Graves is also the sister of the head of the New York office of the Federal Reserve, a connection that will contribute to Doug's undoing. Haslett has a deeply informed and imaginative grasp of history, and his book reads like a thriller, but it is, stealthily, much more than that: a chronicle of the collective corruption whose fallout we are, right this minute, enduring.