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Wednesday, October 01, 2008

April Fool

I suspect that Alfred Hitchcock would have loved April Fool, John Neufeld’s darkly comic novel about a man struggling to cope with the realization that more years of his life are behind than ahead of him. April Fool, in fact, shares many of the elements often present in classic Hitchcock films of the 1950s and 1960s: suspense, a gallows sense of humor, and quirky, often unlikable and weak, characters that get into situations way over their heads.

George Willetts and his wife Peg, in search of what they see as a more suitable lifestyle for people their age, have moved from New York City to small town Connecticut. Peg has settled in rather nicely to her new life but George is not adjusting nearly so well. George, in fact, has developed the unfortunate habit of imagining that he is having a fatal heart attack during the wee hours of the morning and has become quite the regular at his local hospital emergency room. He has even admitted to his analyst that his one remaining desire in life is to have one last romantic fling so that he will be able to die in the knowledge that he truly experienced life and did not waste his final years.

George, ever hopeful that he will find an attractive woman for that one last fling, largely confines his search to the internet where he exchanges romantic email fantasies with would-be lovers. But that all changes one day with his chance meeting of well-known author, Valerie Herrick, a beautiful woman who seems as attracted to George as he is to her.

To say that George is smitten by Valerie is an understatement, so once she makes it clear that she wants no part of a relationship in which she plays the role of “the other woman,” George has to decide just how much he is willing to do to keep her in his life. He is a world-class liar, having worked most of his life as campaign consultant to various politicians of all stripes, so he has little difficulty in explaining the presence of a wife in a way that keeps Valerie on the hook, at least for the short term.

But George wants much more than the kind of long distance relationship he and Valerie have limited themselves to, and he knows that he must decide, once and for all, whether or not he is willing to do whatever it takes to become a real part of Valerie’s life. And that is when George learns who he really is.

April Fool does not offer the laugh-out-loud variety of dark comedy. Rather, John Neufield uses humor to get inside George Willetts in a way that keeps him from coming across as quite the villain that he probably is. George, though, is really kind of a dolt and watching him scheme his way into the arms of his new lover is a bit like watching a train wreck – hard to look away from even though you anticipate the impact of the crash.

Rated at: 3.5
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