Reviewed by Jax Kepple
Edgar Kellogg has ISSUES. A lifelong “sidekick” who has never been completely satisfied with himself or with his lot in life, he abruptly quits his high-paying job as a corporate lawyer on Wall Street and decides to try to make it as a journalist. After months of rejection, he finally calls in a favor to an old high school friend he used to admire and emulate, and lands a job filling in for a reporter who has disappeared in Barba, Portugal while covering a local terrorist group.
Meeting up after the interview with his old friend Toby, who has not fared as well as Edgar would have thought, all of the resentment and feelings of inadequacy are brought back from high school, and Edgar departs for Portugal with an official chip on his shoulder. This chip increases significantly when he realizes the person he is replacing, one Barrington Saddler, has a mythical quality that no one can quite describe, but everyone is attracted to. Barrington could do no wrong, even though he often made up quotes and sources, was an insensitive jerk, and was playing all the other journalists off of each other while sleeping with a few.
Edgar takes up in Barrington’s house and begins to realize that maybe he wasn’t all that great, after having several drunken encounters with Barringtons’s “ghost.” He soon finds himself becoming more and more like Barrington while trying to realize the full extent of his actions. Not until the terrorism hits home is Edgar finally able to break away from Barrington’s legacy, only to find himself, literally, relying on the one person he never thought he would to finally come to terms and start to like himself.
Fans of Lionel Shriver will recognize the same lyrical prose and detailed descriptions of the scenery from past books, but The New Republic doesn’t quite have the same masterful story as The Post-Birthday World or We Need to Talk About Kevin. At times, it was a bit hard to get through as sometimes chapters didn’t really move the story along. In addition, the subject matter was pretty brazen, and sometimes it was hard to believe it was glossed over with no remorse, especially after 9/11 and the recent Boston Marathon attacks.
However, I did enjoy the ending. The epilogue was actually very informative and really wrapped up any remaining loose ends. One does wonder if the book could have been 50 pages shorter and Shriver’s point could have been just as easily communicated.
Jax is in an accountant at a hedge fund. She resides in NYC with her husband.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Harper Perennial. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.