The Big Book of Misunderstanding Author:Jim Gladstone An entire suburban household comes of age simultaneously in this tender, funny first novel of growing children and their arrested-adolescent parents. Perceptively capturing both the warmth and the frictions within a memorably eccentric family, author Jim Gladstone debuts with a work of great humor, heart, and psychological insight. THE BIG BOOK... more » OF MISUNDERSTANDING is a refreshingly candid novel that combines the emotional depth of Sue Miller with the comic verve of Stephen MacCauley. The story opens as Joshua Royalton - 22-years-old, gay, and an aspiring children's book writer - contemplates suicide and asks himself: "Do I have to end my life to end my childhood?" To come up with an answer, Josh leads readers on a tumultuous jaunt through his family history. The Royaltons, Josh explains, are "like Norman Rockwell run amok, so wholesome it's perverse." Dad refuses to wake up from his dream of an Ozzie and Harriet family life. Mom searches for freedom in psychology books. Brother Lew takes refuge in clandestine romance and rebellious isolation. Recounting his youth, Josh reveals the elaborate tales, theories and neuroses he developed to cope with the overbearing affection of his parents. These include a fictional history of tacky Chinese restaurant decor, a severe case of crow-phobia, an obsession with Carly Simon, an extreme aversion to jigsaw puzzles, and a deep fascination with the little known Basque-sport, jai alai.Above all else, there is Josh's enduring devotion to his late grandfather, a man who bore little resemblance to the hero Josh makes of him. Josh struggles to figure out how to be both a part of his family and apart from his family, wrestling with his burgeoning sexuality, his artistic inclinations, and a sometimes crippling inability to be less than empathetic with those around him. Rendering the feverish - and often hilarious - imagination of a troubled youngster's mind with pitch-perfect accuracy, Jim Gladstone takes readers on a wild ride through pop cultural touchstones of the 1970s and 1980s while maintaining a sense of emotional intimacy that will keep readers highly invested in the developing lives of the Royalton family. THE BIG BOOK OF MISUNDERSTANDING is about finding ways to laugh when life is at its most trying. It's about the deep bonds between fathers and sons - and between brothers. It's about a strong, evolving mother and a brilliant teenage girl whose insights and desires for independence lead them to force distance between themselves and the men they truly care about. Most of all, it's about people who insist on figuring out how to love each other despite their differences - and despite the indelible similarities they sometimes wish they didn't share. Jim Gladstone proves that the darkly ironic eye and the deeply affectionate heart are not mutually exclusive writerly terrains in his impressively accomplished debut novel. Written with sharp wit and emotional subtlety, THE BIG BOOK OF MISUNDERSTANDING delivers quirky surprises at every turn.« less
This novel centers around a young gay man who is coming to terms with his sexuality. There are certainly serious moments -- and part of the premise of the book is an attempted suicide -- but overall the story is full of humor and witty dialogue. Jim Gladstone is an accomplished writer and this novel is definitely worth a go. The dynamics between the protagonist and his brother and the rest of his family seem very authentic -- as do his interactions with his acquaintances and college friends, etc. I'm sure some of this "novel" is inspired by events in the author's own life; they must be based in fact for how authentic they seemed to me. The Thanksgiving scene is worth the price of admission alone. I've read dozens of novels in this genre, and this is by far one of my favorites. Funny, sweet, and full of fairly well developed characters.