King of the Mississippi

Hogarth: Crown. Jul. 2019. 256p. ISBN 9780525573784. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780525573807. F
Brock Wharton, former star quarterback and Harvard B-School graduate, oozes white privilege and is cock of the walk at a prestigious Houston consulting firm. Over his extreme objections, the firm hires eccentric, boastful ex-vet Mike Fink (who claims kinship to the legendary King of the Keelboats), and the two become instant enemies. As much as Wharton conspires to get Fink fired, the chameleonlike Fink keeps succeeding. They work against each other but are forced together in this takedown of corporate culture, male identity, and American ideals. Their path leads through Silicon Valley, to a hilarious football game (with Fink the unlikely hero) against a rival firm, to Iraq and the corporate war that never ends. Funny in a nuanced way if not a laugh-out-loud read, the latest from Freedman (School Board) is at the same time serious in intent. The first third, however, is overloaded with marketing/economic terminology, which will cause many readers to skim a lot or simply quit; the last section behaves somewhat similarly, with an abundance of military terminology.
VERDICT In the end, some readers might feel that the concept exceeds the execution. But the Wharton/Fink bonding is worth the ride. For fans of literary fiction.

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