Gallery Books | 2019
Opening Hook: Stroke your ego more than three times, you’re just playing with yourself.
Main Character: Douchebag of the Year!
Plot Twisty-ness: Straight fall from the roof.
I didn’t really love this. It’s kind of boring??? There were moments of intrigue and it’s unlike anything I’ve read recently, but it didn’t live up to the hype I saw online for it.
Now, before you decide to add some salty comment to let me know I’m a bitch, just remember that 1. I already know that, and 2. My reviews aren’t personal indictments against other readers. I’m just saying that, for me, Man of the Year by Caroline Louise Walker was just alright. It was meh. I liked it a reasonable amount for a thing that was just okay.
Certainly, my opinion is going to fall way below all of the THIS IS THE MOST MAGNIFICENT BOOK TO EVER BOOK reviews that are posted. I’m going to land somewhere in the “most okay-est thing to ever mediocre” category.
My expectation was that this was going to be more of a sinister thriller with a cunning anti-hero at the helm of the POV, but it just ended up being a character study about an unlikable, mostly boring narcissist, his untrustworthy family and shallow relationships. But that’s very on-trend for the last couple of years, isn’t it?
The reader is invited underneath the perfectly crafted veneer that is Dr. Robert Hart’s life after he wins his town’s prestigious “Man of the Year” award. As it turns out, despite meticulously crafted appearances for outsiders, Hart is actually a giant turd of a human being.
He reminded me of a local-level Trump, except less name-calling like a certain orange man-toddler.
Hart is only concerned with what everyone thinks of him; keeping up appearances is the most important task, all day, er’ry day. By default, that means his relationships are shallow and delicate in terms of loyalty and trust. He requires everyone to think he’s the best in his career field, that he has the most gorgeous home, an enviable relationship with his teenage son and the hottest wife that everyone wants to fuck. Without that, he can’t seem to derive happiness from anything and has no idea who he is.
And honestly, despite reading a whole novel about him, I don’t know who he really is either, other than a shit bag.
When you place importance on such superficial things, and never care to cultivate strong relationships grounded in honesty and vulnerability, it’s quite easy to become paranoid and to never truly feel safe within the life you’re curating for others. And thus, Hart starts to lose his rich white guy marbles.
When Hart’s teenage son invites his friend Nick to stay with them for the summer, Hart eventually suspects Nick is sleeping with his super hot second wife, Elizabeth. And then a tragedy happens and Hart desperately tries to keep his house of cards from tumbling down. The whole book is Hart racing (I’m using that verb loosely) around putting out one self-made fire after another without his family’s secrets becoming public, while also trying to weed through his own lies and those of his family.
This is definitely a slow-burner of a novel, but also it’s not really building up to anything that I found especially exciting in the end. There is some suspense laced throughout the plot as Hart attempts to cover his own ass and determine exactly what happened to Nick, but overall I think this has a super flat and lifeless vibe.
Living within Hart’s self-centred head didn’t create much room for character development of anyone else in the novel, everything exists within Hart’s experiences, and so I didn’t have a connection to them or the parts they played within the plot. Their emotions and motivations were non-existent because only Hart mattered, and that made things feel very one-dimensional. Which I guess is true of any narcissistic, but it’s hard to read that theme in a book.
Hart himself is just a terrible character to have to ride with for a whole novel. I’d rather not be in the head of a douche-canoe Trump-like character for that long, honestly. I’m completely burnt out on assholes.
The twists of the lies, secrets and miscommunications between Hart and the people in his life existed to build tension and suspense, but it was all pretty mundane stuff. Maybe that’s because I’ve become so desensitized by thriller novels at this point that I need a bigger hit to really feel the high. Either way, it was just too quiet of a novel for my tastes. There was clearly an intention to build a sense of insidious danger and immorality that was meant to keep the reader hooked, but that never landed with me.
Caroline Louise Walker is not a bad writer, in fact, the only thing that really saved me from falling asleep numerous times was Walker’s prose. I think for the right reader, this is a book that will worm its way into your head and keep you on edge, but for me, it was dull. The main character was just too awful to be stuck with for as long as I was, it took too long to get to the meat of the plot; the ending was dragged out and the final revelation fizzled for me where it really should have crackled.
Definitely not a thriller, but maybe you’re into that kind of thing.
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 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 neighbours. 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.