Book Title and Author: Man of the Year by Caroline Louise Walker
Publication Date and Publisher: June 11, 2019 by Gallery Books
Genre: Fiction, Literary Suspense
Pages: 256 pages
Buy on Amazon.com
Date Read: May 31, 2019 (finished copy provided by publisher)
Beware the Man of the Year. You may praise him, resent him, even want to be him: but beneath the elegant trappings that define him, danger looms. Caroline Louise Walker’s stunning debut novel, for fans of Herman Koch’s The Dinner and Shari Lapena’s The Couple Next Door, delves into the increasingly paranoid mind of a man whose life as the most upstanding of citizens hides a relentlessly dark heart.
Dr. Robert Hart, Sag Harbor’s just-named Man of the Year, is the envy of his friends and neighbors. His medical practice is thriving. He has a beautiful old house and a beautiful new wife and a beautiful boat docked in the village marina. Even his wayward son, Jonah, is back on track, doing well at school, finally worthy of his father’s attentions. So when Jonah’s troubled college roommate, Nick, needs a place to stay for the summer, Hart and his wife generously offer him their guest house. A win-win: Jonah will have someone to hang with, and his father can bask in the warm glow of his own generosity.
But when he begins to notice his new houseguest getting a little too close to his wife, the good doctor’s veneer begins to crack. All the little lies Robert tells—harmless falsehoods meant to protect everything he holds dear—begin to mount. Before long, he’s embroiled in a desperate downward spiral, destroying the lives that stand in his way. It’s only the women in his life—his devoted office manager, his friends, his wife—who can clearly see the truth.
Biting and timely, Man of the Year races along at an electric pace, with a wicked twist that you won’t see coming.
Don’t expect Man of the Year to be a mystery or thriller because it’s not. Instead, the novel is literary suspense thanks to the way Caroline Louise Walker masterfully captured the inner nature of Dr. Robert Hart, Sag Harbor’s newest Citizen of the Year. Instead of being action or plot-driven, it’s intelligently character driven from page one, and that makes it a compellingly different read than you might expect.
Her debut novel is a beguiling character study of Bobby as we’re taken deep into his mind and get to see what makes him the man he is through inner monologues that reveal just how egocentric and paranoid he is, which quickly leads to tragedy and his downward spiral.
He suddenly begins to look at Elizabeth, his beautiful, desirable 2nd wife whom he married after they both left their spouses, in a different light once he sees her giving attention (harmless? motherly? sensual?) to his son Jonah’s college friend, Nick.
Bobby is convinced Nick has another motive for agreeing to be their houseguest for the summer other than the fact his mother died from ALS and his father committed suicide, so he really has no family. Could it really be so simple that he wants to be part of their family? Or is it as Bobby suspects and the handsome young man wants his wife? Can Bobby even trust Elizabeth? Should he trust her since she’s cheated before?
Walker also exposes the innermost secrets, troubles, and struggles of Elizabeth and Jonah until it’s obvious that everyone in this novel is lying about something―no one in this book is reliable, but that is the fun! Bobby, especially, is very unlikeable almost to the extreme.
This is a slow burning novel. The suspense builds up slowly and culminates in an ending that was wickedly twisted and highly entertaining.
Walker’s well-written, vivid prose and complex characters really makes this novel stand out, and they’re the reason why I bumped up my rating by .5 stars. I enjoyed Man of the Year; it’s a fascinating debut by Walker, and I look forward to her future novels.
**Thank you, Jessica Roth, at Gallery Books for a gifted finished copy of this novel. All opinions are my own.**