Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Since You Left Me, Alan Zadoff


The Teaser: Never say "horrible" when making up an accident as an excuse. That's the first lesson that Sanskrit Aaron Zuckerman learns at the beginning of his second semester, junior year. An "accident" could be a fender bender or a narrowly avoided squirrel in the road and is easily played off later. A "horrible accident" involves medical care and probably dismemberment and requires a lot of work, sister-bribing and parent manipulation to maintain. But when Sanskrit's mother forgets a mandatory parent-teacher conference, he panics and soon finds this lie getting bigger and bigger as he struggles to reconnect his family, including his obnoxious sister, space cadet mom, her new creepy Indian guru boyfriend (although, really, Sanskrit would be perfectly fine if he would go away forever), absent father, supremely religious former best friend, and the absolute true love of his life- who hasn't spoken to him since second grade.

What Stood Out: Zadoff has proved again and again that he writes sad sack protagonists really well. You just want to give poor Sanskrit a hug and tell him that everything will be okay. As a kid who made up a little lie that just keeps snowballing farther and farther out of control, Sanskrit is someone that you find yourself rooting for. I was always trying to guess three steps ahead to see how he'd get himself out of a particular jam, and I was almost always wrong.

What Didn't Work: There's a bit of clutter around the denouement and everything feels a bit rushed at the end, but I think that frantic pace is intentional and was used to relatively successful effect. Overall this is a really enjoyable, escapist romp, which when you consider the serious topics it purports to tackle, can come off a little insincere.

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