...an intellectual blitzkrieg of a book, setting off depth charges of meaning long after its pages are closed. Kramer's protagonist, Chip Samuels, is the sort of man for whom the term mild-mannered seems to have been coined: college teacher, part-time carpenter, ambivalent anarchist, noncustodial father of a dearly loved son. When someone begins blowing up beachfront homes in his Cape Cod hometown, Samuels is the last person anyone should suspect--and yet the bombing campaign is his personal form of redemption, the work of an ex-radical finally coming into his own. Ironically, the resulting media frenzy turns him into the last thing any right-thinking radical would wish to become: a celebrity, a spokesperson, a rich man, an insider.
Samuels's story takes the shape of an extended journal written for his absentee son. It's a risky form for a novel, both introspective and deliberate, and for the first third of the book its discursive style can be a challenge to read. Kramer is the psychiatrist author of the bestselling Listening to Prozac, and his first novel often proceeds according to the rhythms of nonfiction... Fortunately, it's all in the service of character, and not quite as intimidating as it sounds. Ultimately, Samuels has the temperament not of a terrorist but of an artist. He finds Marx inferior to Dickens as a thinker, and describes the bombings as a form of personal expression, reflecting his own quiet fastidiousness and keen sense of the absurd. But what are the moral implications of his actions? We're left to work that one out for ourselves... The human dilemma is, of course, the territory of both the psychiatrist and the novelist...--Mary Parker