A New York yuppie takes time off work, ostensibly to repair his country house, but in fact to get away from his family. A guitar player, he befriends members of a band whose leader enrolls him as a drug courier and eventually his marriage goes bust. The tale of one man's midlife crisis.
I reserve the M-word for a small handful of books that I have genuinely found to be life-changing, or which blew me away to such an extent that I still need to take deep breaths when thinking of them.
Preston Falls isn't quite that good, but it is bloody close.
Like Charles Baxter, Kent Haruf, Richard Yates and Anne Tyler, David Gates is able to capture the honest frustration and tragedy of a relationship in a few short words. He flits between male and female perspectives with ease and is equally convincing with both. I have had this book on my shelves for about five years or so and am kicking myself for leaving it so long to read it. I was a fool to do so.
Doug Willis is approaching 50 and is bored with his marriage and fed up with his kids. Funnily enough, his wife Jean has more or less had enough of him and the two children are too busy being vegetarian and a problem child to care less. So when Doug decides to spend a two month sabbatical at their summer home out in the sticks it seems to suit just about everybody. Until, that is, Doug gets arrested and finds himself involved in a small town drugs ring. Things really are going tits up.
Preston Falls is painfully well-observed, especially when it comes to those cruel inner thoughts we have about the ones we love but never dare utter out loud. Gates latches on to the harshness of ordinary lives, that ever-present sense of failure and paranoia, but does so with a glint in his eye. This stuff hurts as it is so recognisable, but it is funny too.
I now want to read everything he has written, always the highest praise I can have for a writer, although that only extends to one more novel and a collection of stories which I must confess I am a little disappointed about.