Posts Tagged Marc Schuster

The Grievers: book review

The Grievers by Mark Schuster. Publisher: The Permanent Press (May 2012). Literary fiction. Hardcover. 176 pages. 978-1-57962-263-3.

. . . my life has been marked by short, random bursts of inspiration and activity, followed by extended periods of coasting, disenchantment, boredom, lethargy, and eventually, surrender.

Fairly quickly into Mark Schuster’s debut novel, The Singular Exploits of Wonder Mom & Party Girl, I became enamored of Schuster’s dark humor, wit and stellar usage of the written word. His second novel, The Grievers, while dealing with completely different subject matter—a suicide—contains the edginess and writing skills that made me both envy and admire this young author. In his first novel, Schuster satirized soccer moms. In The Grievers, he tackles wayward twenty-something’s.

When a former classmate kills himself, a group of friends begins to analyze their own lives and their connection to their downtrodden classmate. Charley Schwartz agrees to arrange a memorial service for a high school classmate who killed himself. Honestly Charley remembers little about Billy except that he was his lab partner. At the moment, Charley’s working a throwaway part-time job—ever wonder who those people are who dress up in weird costumes to hand out fliers?– and thinking about finishing his master’s degree. His wife wants to have a child which adds pressure and a bit of a crimp to his meandering post-grad lifestyle.

Schuster compiles a very solid characterization of that existential twenty-something quest to figure out the who, what, where, why and how for happiness. Charley and his friends behave like children in grown-up bodies. Reflecting on their classmates Billy’s death makes them consider their own accomplishments, goals, mortality. Things they’d rather put little thought into at this time of their lives. A sleek novel with a snappy tempo, The Grievers is sad funny, understandable funny, been-there funny and cringe funny. That’s why it’s such a marvelous read.

purchase at Amazon: The Grievers

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The Singular Exploits of Wonder Mom & Party Girl: book review

The Singular Exploits of Wonder Mom & Party Girl , by Marc Schuster. Publisher: The Permanent Press (June 1, 2011). Literary fiction. Hardcover, 280 pages.

Was I all that different now that I had been high a few times? A little more open-minded, I told myself, checking the mirror for telltale signs of what I was up to. A little more relaxed. A little more daring. A little more willing to let the small things slide. But in the final analysis, I had to insist that I was the same woman I’d always been. Smart, self-assured, responsible Audrey.

Audrey’s husband left her for a younger woman although he insists that she remains his best friend. Taking care of her two young daughters and editing a local food trade magazine, Audrey plays by the rules. She’s a good person. This is not a predictable story about a divorcee coping with change. The Singular Exploits of Wonder Mom & Party Girl is a refreshing novel about a woman facing the realities of getting older and losing her comfort zones through divorce. Using wit, situational humor and deft observations, author Marc Schuster constructs a fast-paced story with various twists.

One night when she’s out with a co-worker, she tries cocaine and soon finds she really likes it. She also dates a local restaurant owner who enjoys dabbling with drugs. He encourages her drug use and introduces her to jazz. But in the end he’s not that reliable. Audrey’s Wonder Mom by day and Party Girl at night. Soon the lines blur and she’s a real mess. Audrey can no longer keep her dark secret. She’s dealing and snorting cocaine, working and taking care of her daughters. It’s overwhelming. While becoming a drug addict may be extreme, Schuster uses it as a metaphor for many quick fixes that Americans use to solve their issues. The Singular Exploits of Wonder Mom & Party Girl hovers between amusing and tragic but doesn’t cross the line too much in either direction.

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