3 of 13
368 pages; Ecco
Central Iowa is an unlikely setting for a novel steeped in sex and weed, but Bakopoulos’ third novel does a persuasive job of showing that sleepy college towns are a little more wild than their reputations suggest. Don is a real-estate broker who’s struggling to make a sale during the Great Recession, while his wife, Claire, is a novelist who can’t achieve escape velocity on her second book. Don is guided out of his doldrums by Amelia, a flirty recent college grad with a tempting supply of pot, while Claire is tempted in a similar way by Charlie, an actor whose professor father was infamous for his undergrad conquests. Bakopoulos takes this grown-ups-behaving-badly setup seriously, but he takes care to keep the tone breezy, chatty and dishy as the mercury rises. (“At the start of swimsuit season in the Midwest, it is hard not to inventory your peers and note how they fared over the course of the brutal winter.”) This has its downsides: Don and Claire’s children don’t play much of a role. But Bakopoulos is masterful when it comes to imagining the ways that we all long to cut loose from our everyday obligations. You won’t think of the Midwest—or time off from work—the same way again.
— Mark Athitakis