By Ekta R. Garg
June 5, 2019
Genre: Mainstream fiction
Release date: June 11, 2019
Rated: Borrow it / 3 stars
A man suspects his wife of cheating on him and decides to put a stop to it. What begins as one small lie to get rid of his rival escalates into a tower of falsehoods that threatens to destroy everything in. Author Caroline Louise Walker strings readers along with a plot that feels a little excessive but saves her story with a twist in her brand new book Man of the Year.
Dr. Robert Hart can’t complain about his life. The business risk he took years earlier has turned into a profitable solo practice in the town of Sag Harbor, New York. He shares a home in this idyllic location in the Hamptons with his second wife, Elizabeth. Jonah, his son from his previous marriage, has come home from college for the summer. On top of everything else, Sag Harbor residents have just voted him as Man of the Year, an honor given to an outstanding citizen who has made a significant contribution to the community.
Despite the accolades, Robert is less than thrilled at the moment. Jonah brought his friend and roommate, Nick, home with him, and lately Robert has noticed that Nick pays too much attention to Elizabeth. If the attention had only gone one way, Robert would chalk it up to a summer infatuation that would fizzle out by fall. But Elizabeth seems to reciprocate Nick’s interest by going out of her way to make sure he’s comfortable in their home.
It may be natural for Robert to be suspicious. After all, he and Elizabeth formulated their relationship on a lie: they had an affair while married to other people and decided to divorce their former spouses and stay together. It’s been 10 years now, but as Robert discovers with Nick the flicker of suspicion never quite dies out.
When Nick mentions that he doesn’t have a place to stay for the summer, Elizabeth immediately offers him the guest house. Backed into a corner, Robert supports the invitation. Inside, though, he’s seething. He doesn’t need some idiot teenager trying to seduce his attractive wife.
Robert decides to put Nick in his place by telling him a lie. That one lie leads to a second, then a third, until he finds himself square in the middle of an unthinkable tragedy. Suddenly everyone seems to be lying, and Robert can’t figure out who to trust. All he knows is that he needs to watch his step. As a prominent citizen now, he can’t afford to mess anything up. He also can’t afford to tell anyone the whole truth.
Author Caroline Louise Walker sets up Robert’s world with enough speed that disaster becomes a foregone conclusion. That Robert is the architect of much of that disaster will keep readers intrigued through the first part of the book, although some of his choices on how to deal with Nick will come across as outlandish and petty. While Walker may have intended for this effect, at times Robert’s moves to get revenge may induce an eyeroll.
Walker lets Robert lead the way, allowing him to tell most of the story in first person. She gives other characters a handful of chapters, which offers a limited view into the story world through their eyes. Readers may wish at times that Walker had given them increased access to those other characters. Just when it feels like they’re beginning to round out the story, the narration flips back to Robert.
“Pride goes before a fall” declares the saying, and Walker illustrates the maxim to the fullest. Readers will have no doubt that Robert deserves the complications he endures in his life; instead of facing challenges like an adult, he would rather let his ego run on a power trip. And trip it does; by the end, Walker will offer unforeseen twists that will lead readers to believe Robert didn’t suffer nearly enough for the heartache that ensues throughout the story.
To get to that point, however, readers have to be patient. Some may not be willing to give the book its due for the payoff. Those looking for a quick summer read and willing to wait for a meaty surprise may enjoy this story. Otherwise, I recommend readers Borrow Man of the Year from the library.