Boomer1: A Novel by Daniel Torday

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They were baby boomers. They had and they had and they had, as if that was the very condition of their own existance- having, owning, getting, living out Bellow’s I want, I want, I want- while he and his generation had not. They, too, wanted plenty, but they did not have.

For Mark Brumfeld his talents as a Bluegrass musician, journalist, and now holding a PhD in English- life hasn’t taken him to the places his youthful dreams promised. Unlike the baby boomer generation (his parents included) with their endless possibilities and still feasting on the spoils of the war generation, all he has to show is mounting debt, and a broken heart after his girlfriend Cassie refuses his marriage proposal. Tail between his legs, he has to move back home and live in his parent’s basement. There is no postwar high for his generation, and he has a lot to say about it. If he wanted to buy a house, if he ever had a solid job, there isn’t a chance he could afford one. It’s those baby boomers hogging up all the jobs, out-staying their welcome here on planet earth, refusing to give up the reins of power. They are the reason the millennials  can’t have anything! His Boomer Missives (videos online) have a following, and before he knows it he is a national threat.

Cassie is a Midwestern girl who wants nothing more than to change her entire being. A bassist in an all female punk band that she founded, it isn’t long before she is replaced by someone who has played with bigger names. Just like that, she’s out and heartbroken. It is by chance she and Mark keep running into each other, and he brings her back to the stage, what she loves doing. A year in, they are living together, making music, spending time in bed, nothing too serious but Mark is depressed. Nothing he wants is happening fast enough, everything is just wrong in the world. Old love returns in Cassie’s life, maybe Mark isn’t the one? His funk is a heavy weight but maybe he can turn things around, ambushing her with a wedding proposal that costs him far more than he could imagine, making it impossible for him to remain in his apartment. His future suddenly feels like a limp thing, he moves back with his parents, his career prospects dead yet Cassie’s is thriving, taking directions where the only way is up, and making a lot of money. If Mark is love-sick, Cassie’s memories of their time together are completely different. So why is it that when he takes part in ‘activities’ she is suddenly being interviewed by the FBI? Surely Cassie loved him at some point, but she wasn’t fully committed to him, wasn’t really that serious. She knew he was lonely, broken when he left, but he had his thing, his passion in his boomer missives. Just what has he done?

Mark’s mother never dreamed her adult son would be living at home again, and never in her wildest imaginings did she think he would be sharing his ‘revolutionary views’ with the world in her own home, marking her for the rest of her life! Certainly in the two weeks prior to clearing out her things to make room for him she wasn’t exactly thrilled at the prospect! Once the sort of woman who wanted to become nothing like her own parents (similar to Cassie in many ways), to escape the snares of motherhood, convention, she had her own bohemian existence, her musical talents, a ‘what if’ past to  visit, at least in her memories.” …she was the emperor of her memory palace and not even her son or her husband was invited to join her.”  A life she had to give up, decisions to make that led her here, living in a home with a son who has gotten himself in far more serious trouble than he ever intended.

Each character has spent time changing everything about themselves from their names to shaking off their upbringing. Mark’s mother Julia says as much in the telling of her past. Each wants reinvention at some point in time.

Characters are on the cusp of becoming, it is easy for some and impossible for others. Who doesn’t want the golden apple of success? Are the baby boomers really as bad as Mark believes, or have they too given up on their own dreams? What is more emasculating than failure, having to return home and feel like a ‘man child’, reverting? What about the baby boomers who are meant to be enjoying their golden years but are giving shelter to their full-grown children who can’t seem to catch a break? Or do they all just really need a good kick in the arse?

Cassie is an interesting character, confused about where she is going, who she loves, what she wants and for whatever reason opportunities seem to present themselves to her. Maybe it’s in her attitude, her desires. Mark is disgruntled from the start, maybe he is just in his own way, not to say he doesn’t have legitimate complaints, lord knows times are hard and it can feel like the luck of the draw is not in your favor. You can work hard, you can educate yourself to the point of your brain  exploding but success isn’t guaranteed. But the frustration of youth is clearly genuine, and it’s understandable why the baby boomers and the millennials clash so much and sometimes seem to come from different planets. Truth is, they are trying as hard as they can but it is highly competitive, and jobs don’t fall out of the sky. Are there lazy millenials, of course, but there are just as many working their fingers to the bone just to stay afloat.

There is so much angst in his boomer missives, creations taking on a life of their own. An interesting story though I wasn’t really in love with the characters, I was still interested in where all of this was leading.

Publication Date: September 18, 2018

St. Martin’s Press

 

 

 

 

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