FICTION

Little Disasters

Viking. May 2018. 352p. ISBN 9780735221680. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780735221703. F
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On the hottest day of the year, smoke rises from midtown Manhattan in the wake of a mysterious disaster. Without public transit, electricity, or cell phone service, Michael Gould and Paul Fenniger each attempt to make their way home to Brooklyn and the woman they both love. Michael and Paul met one year before in the waiting room of a Brooklyn hospital on the night their wives gave birth. Michael and Rebecca left the next morning with an infant son; Paul and Jennifer did not. In the aftermath of their loss, Paul engages Michael's carpentry services to transform the unused nursery into a home office for Jenny. The two couples develop a tentative friendship even as Michael and Jenny initiate an affair that promises to destroy both marriages. In Michael, first-time novelist Klein has realized a deeply unlikable, slyly funny protagonist who feels fully three-dimensional. The other characters, especially the women, are obscured under the veneer of Michael's interpretation, yet it works for the story. Using alternating first-person narration and an oscillating time line, the author ratchets up the tension and cleverly exposes the gap between reality and perception.
VERDICT Readers of literary fiction will be intrigued.

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