18 Brilliant Books for Fall
Imagining himself to be on a Kerouac-esque field trip to slip the "surly bonds" of Park Avenue and find "refuge in America," Barry gets a crash course in how the other 99.5 percent lives. Each encounter with drug dealers, truck drivers, and preachers, while passing through Baltimore, Richmond, Atlanta, and points west, is a chance for him to repurpose the "friend moves" he's used on would-be investors to charm his fellow travelers. These face-offs are both painful and hilarious, like a twisted hybrid of Dostoevsky and Ali G. And they provide a much-needed dose of reality, nudging Barry toward a realization that no amount of money will make his wife love him or enable his child to speak.
With Lake Success, Shteyngart manages to satirize identity politics and vulture capitalism while tenderly probing the intricacies of love and parenthood. For all its snark, the novel is devastatingly poignant—and finally hopeful. If even Barry can get kinder and gentler, so can America itself.