Verdict: A Faustian tale of a SoCal man given the choice between fame and fortune or his heart and soul.
A man loses his job and broods over how to continue making ends meet for himself and his beloved young son as his fortieth birthday approaches.
Luke Morrow once lived the good life in the Los Angeles Westside. Formerly a successful advertising executive, his wife left him after he took some bad business risks, and then he gets randomly fired from his position. Unable to afford his previous lifestyle, he may also lose his eight-year-old son Trevor to his bitter ex-wife Lisa.
The first third of the novel follows Luke as he navel-gazes about his predicaments and applies for a new career, while finding joy in small moments with Trevor. Then, in Chapter 9, the realistic story takes an unexpected Faustian twist. The plot does a full circle and Luke’s character is altered to the extreme.
There are many tender scenes between Luke and his son as they live their mostly banal lives, some sweet—planting a garden, some a little sad—like learning about pet fish mortality. And even when Luke finds himself poorer, his Westside setting still lets him and readers let loose.
Readers may disagree with the author’s decisions to write the story in present tense and to use a lot of summary. These create a literary undertone, but feel like rather cheap ways to do it. Baker’s wording lacks the economy and grace to be super literary, the sound of the sentences ranging from easygoing to uncomfortably overloaded with add-ons. The fantasy plot twist comes late, in addition to being unoriginal.
Some bright moments are Luke’s playful daydreams or when the story relaxes into the bliss of simple pleasures such as pushing a laughing child on a swing. Luke’s rise from despair to superiority also takes readers on a journey full of riches and women.
A Faustian tale of a SoCal man given the choice between fame and fortune or his heart and soul.