“You’ve always been exactly who you are. Hesitant. A second-guesser of second guesses.”
This story starts off very slowly, so slowly the reader begins to feel they too are trapped in Edsel Broffman’s colorless life. Nothing happens to or for him, and it seems he lives life in suspended time. He doesn’t make anything happen, as so many others would at least attempt to do in a dull existence. Then, something finally does, he gets a phone call informing him he has won a free week in a beachfront condo in Destin, Fl but the catch? He has to bring a partner as it’s only for couples. This is a kick in the arse that Edsel needed to finally slink out of his loneliness. He has finally won something! Let the adventures begin.
Edsel is awkward and conflicted, and being a second-guesser has kept him from actually doing anything. His mother is slowly losing it, in fact I think she was the most interesting character. Her antics are both funny and achingly sad. Maybe it is true though, a little, that she should have ‘pushed you out of the nest with more vigor.’ Edsel is a kind man, but he is bland. Every other character is full of life, and I understand that is the intention. Edsel needs to find his fire. Fire comes in the form of Shelia, who starts as a friend. But Shelia isn’t everything she seems to be. I know some people are going to hate this about her. I think it was wonderful, someone like Edsel isn’t going to be savvy when it comes to women or men, honestly. He is the sort who can be and gets taken. Not everyone in the world has everyone around them pegged, though we like to think we do. Shelia, with all her issues, isn’t any better or worse than Edsel. What are but a collection of our successes and our failings? Edsel’s biggest demon is his lack of faith in himself.
The first half didn’t engage me as much as the second half. I didn’t love this, but there were things about all the characters that tickled me. I think a younger audience needs far more excitement in a novel that has the title extraordinary in it. What is extraordinary is that this man, so set in his slow life, breaks out and finally sees the light of day. It is extraordinary to change, we are creatures of habit. We come to accept all manner of things we shouldn’t. I took me ages to learn that because we always wonder why people put up with, or stay stuck in so many different situations. It’s because it’s easier to know what to expect, it’s the rotten truth that to change any situation requires responsibility. You are your salvation. So while his adventures are small such as encountering the underbelly of our times in his own slum-like apartment complex, attempting to date, and connect with people, they are still adventures with a capital A to someone as rejected from life as Edsel. If you have read Wallace before, you know strange unlikely things happen. It’s what has made some of his other work so unique. Who knows, life is stranger than fiction, you certainly notice these things as you collect years. Who knows, maybe women helping you have faith in the… errr…size of your manhood isn’t so ridiculous. Good but not my favorite Wallace. Again, I think it is better geared towards an older generation because they know that life knocks you about.
Publication Date: May 30, 2017
St. Martin’s Press