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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Domestic Violets

Domestic Violets
Matthew Norman
Harper Perennial, 2011

Tom Violet, the son of a famous and successful writer, has struggled his whole life. Not only does he want to be a better husband and father than his own father was, he has writing aspirations himself but lacks the confidence to do anything about it. Instead, he works for a soulless corporate entity producing meaningless press releases designed to help other companies improve in a vague nonproductive way. Tom has a wife who works in academia, a five-year-old daughter, and a neurotic dog. He is also suffering from a midlife crisis of sorts. His assistant is young and attractive and idolizes his every move, and Tom suspects it would take very little for him to do something he would very much regret later. An extramarital affair would be so much like something his father would do – and he is not someone Tom wants to emulate. At all. Especially now that the famous writer has shown up on his doorstep, suitcase in hand. Wife Number 4 has discovered his latest dalliance and threw him out of the house. Tom really doesn’t want that to happen to him. What a cliché his father has become, especially now that just want the Pulitzer Prize.

While Tom resents his father, Tom really would like to be like him, too – at least the famous writer part. He has been working feverishly on his own novel, late at night and has shown it to his junior copywriter assistant, who naturally gushes on and on about it. He has also shown it to his wife, who takes it with her on her out of state conference, promising not to call until she has finished reading it. Meanwhile, Tom’s daughter shares with Tom that Mommy has a special friend she meets at the gym. Tom is immediately suspicious and discovers that his wife’s conference is for two people only, and this other guy is one of the people. While he’s trying to figure out how to deal with his wife’s possible infidelity, his stepfather calls to say that Tom’s mother has left him, and could Tom please try to talk her into coming back home? Oh, and the president of the company that Tom works for has offered him a promotion with a big raise, and Tom now has to decide whether he wants to be a soulless corporate hack permanently, or at least until he does something stupid at work and gets himself fired like he has fantasized about every day since he started working there.

Some may call this novel a dark comedy, but I think it’s just real life, albeit real life portrayed in a very humorous way. Tom has real problems, to be sure, but he just can’t help thinking funny things while he’s contemplating all the ways his life has gone wrong. Sometimes it’s just fun to read about other people’s situations and not worry about your own for a while, and if you can laugh along the way, all the better.


This is the author’s first novel.

Other titles you may enjoy:

Captives by Todd Hasak-Lowy (2008)
Disaffected and angry screenwriter Daniel Bloom finds that his revenge fantasy about a nameless assassin who is taking down evil corporate executives and politicians is becoming all too real.

Rude Behavior by Dan Jenkins (1998) Billy Clyde Puckett--"good ol' boy," former star halfback, and broadcaster--hits on a scheme to secure a new NFL franchise team.

Grub by Elise Blackwell (2007)
A novel of literary New York follows the lives of a cast of characters including editors, writers, and their friends over a five year period.

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