Finished: My American Unhappiness by dean Bakopoulos, 2011, 9780151013449.
Is this a literary novel? It must be because not much happens. Bakowoasidfan writes well; the first 20 pages had me interested and then my interest tailed off.
Zeke Pappas (I'll call him Zeppo because that is easier to type) is 34-years-old and heads up the Great Midwestern Humanities Initiative that funds projects around the midwest. Zeppo lives with his mother and the two orphaned nieces of his brother.
It is Spring 2008 and Zeppo's GMHI is having money trouble. Zeppo has no girlfriend, loves his nieces, and works too much on his American Unhappiness project. The Unhappiness project is Zeppo's work interviewing people across the U.S. and usually starts with the question Why are you unhappy? Of course it is Zeppo that is unhappy. Zeppo is more unhappy when his mother's says her cancer diagnoses leaves her with six months to live. Zeppo is even more unhappy when he finds out his mother requires he be married to get custody of the nieces when she dies. Unless Zeppo gets married or is engaged the nieces go to his sister-in-law's sister (who comes to town to help with the kids after the diagnoses)
Zeppo is an unreliable narrator. He is a liar. He is a drunk. He is desperate. He is irresponsible about work. He purposefully ignores crises and trouble. He is delusional. He is lonely.
Zeppo makes a list of prospects for marriage. Zeppo screws it up with each one. But, Zeppo does end up having sex with one prospect. Completely creeps out his next-door-neighbor prospect. Almost has the cops called on him by a former employee. Sleeps with his former sister-in-law. Twice.
Mom dies. Kids go to Michigan with their aunt. GMHI is shut down by government. Book ends with Zeppo driving to Michigan to visit.
1. You could argue Zeppo is desperate to keep his nieces. Yeah, I suppose. But his drinking and air-headed attitude only led (lead?) to his mother's decision. Loneliness is smacking Zeppo in the face with his mother dying and nieces going away. Zeppo ends up trying to buy a wife by offering a job at GMHI that the GMHI could never, ever afford.
2. Various other things happen. Government auditors. Pals of Zeppo. Zeppo's narration yammering on and on and on and on. Zeppo's dead wife from his college years is not really dead and contacts him via Facebook for a divorce.
3. This book was not for me. Bakopopodopo should write some nice genre stuff; a novel where something happens.
4. Gratuitous reference to book titles.
5. Gratuitous Starbucks.
6. Gratuitous Madison geography.
7. Gratuitous Madison 78-square-miles-surrounded-by-reality.
8. Bakopoopopollsoisps worked for the Humanities Council for several years. They assisted with a few of our events.