Very Nice: A novel
Zahid Azzam is a reluctant professor, a literary star who’s unable to write after his first novel propelled him to fame. He’s passive and directionless but also incredibly handsome, and one of his young students, Rachel, decides to seduce him. When Zahid visits his family in Pakistan, he leaves his standard poodle with Rachel, who moves back in with her mother, Becca, in suburban Connecticut for the summer. Becca falls in love with the dog and, when Zahid returns from Pakistan unexpectedly early, with Zahid. Meanwhile, Rachel’s father, Jonathan, is facing the unhappy reality of living with his mistress. His best employee, Khloe, is struggling with unrequited love for her childhood babysitter. And Rachel, disgusted by Zahid’s puzzling lack of attention and what she views as her mother’s embarrassing crush, finds temporary refuge with the most toxic family in town. Zahid is the connective tissue linking all of these lost souls, but he will not be the one to force anyone out of their inertia.
The point of view shifts chapter by chapter among these and other characters, and the story is richer for the weaving. Dermansky’s short, stark sentences are laden with humor and pithy, sometimes risky observations about life in the Trump era. No one escapes the low-grade fever of dissent, fury, fear, and disappointment–except, perhaps, the poodle. Loved by all, she is the only character in this strange, funny, timely novel who makes a choice and sticks to it. The rest may be doomed to tepid contentment, where a half-hearted “very nice” is better than nothing at all.
|Page Count||304 pages|
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