Systemic. Adam Haslett’s debut novel, Union Atlantic, provokes readers to think about the established values that support our society and frame the behaviors that are rewarded or punished. Each of the key characters in this novel behaves in ways that reflect a worldview formed by life’s experience. Doug Fanning left the impoverished home of his alcoholic mother to join the military, served in the Gulf, and returned home to a banking meritocracy that rewarded his focus on producing profits by any means. His boss was willing to look the other way as long as the bank, Union Atlantic, was making money. Fanning lives a lonely workaholic life and builds a McMansion in Finton, Massachusetts, next door to Charlotte Graves, a retired history teacher. Her values are set in opposition to Doug’s: she values the land and clear-heading thinking. Her brother, Henry, chairs the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, believes in strong government and keeping the system afloat. Nate is a teen grieving the death of his father, and he enters the lives of both Charlotte and Doug raging with a desire to love and be loved while pleasing others. Solitude and loss pervade these pages, while life goes on, packed with major life-changing events. This is a fine debut novel that most readers will enjoy.
Rating: Three-star (Recommended)
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