The Terrible Privacy of Maxwell Sim

Knopf. 2011. c.304p. ISBN 9780307594815. $26.95. F
On Valentine's Day 2009, Englishman Maxwell Sim, a man with 70 Facebook friends and few real ones, is in Australia having dinner with his estranged father when he notices a Chinese woman and her daughter at a nearby table. The easy intimacy he perceives between them provokes an epiphany, revealing everything missing from his own life and sending the middle-aged divorcé into an emotional tailspin. Back home, he opts not to return to the department store job from which he is on leave owing to depression. Instead, he takes a position selling all-natural toothbrushes and soon embarks on a sales promotion to the far north of England. Alone in a Prius with only the voice of his GPS for company, he finds himself on a journey through his past, visiting people and places he once knew, heading toward an emotional breakdown and, ultimately, to unexpected and redeeming self-knowledge.
VERDICT This witty, sympathetic, and often painfully funny take on real loneliness in the virtual, socially networked world deserves a wide audience.
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