by Andrew Sean Greer
Literary Fiction, Gay Fiction
Hachette | Little Brown | Lee Boudreaux Books
Formats available: Paperback, Electronic, Audio
Pub Date: 7.18.17 | Pages: 272
REVIEWER: Sophia Rose
E-ARC provided by publisher for review. No remuneration was exchanged and all opinions presented herein are my own except as noted.
Who says you can’t run away from your problems?
You are a failed novelist about to turn fifty. A wedding invitation arrives in the mail: your boyfriend of the past nine years is engaged to someone else. You can’t say yes–it would be too awkward–and you can’t say no–it would look like defeat. On your desk are a series of invitations to half-baked literary events around the world.
QUESTION: How do you arrange to skip town?
ANSWER: You accept them all.
What would possibly go wrong? Arthur Less will almost fall in love in Paris, almost fall to his death in Berlin, barely escape to a Moroccan ski chalet from a Saharan sandstorm, accidentally book himself as the (only) writer-in-residence at a Christian Retreat Center in Southern India, and encounter, on a desert island in the Arabian Sea, the last person on Earth he wants to face. Somewhere in there: he will turn fifty. Through it all, there is his first love. And there is his last.
Because, despite all these mishaps, missteps, misunderstandings and mistakes, LESS is, above all, a love story.
A scintillating satire of the American abroad, a rumination on time and the human heart, a bittersweet romance of chances lost, by an author The New York Times has hailed as “inspired, lyrical,” “elegiac,” “ingenious,” as well as “too sappy by half,” LESS shows a writer at the peak of his talents raising the curtain on our shared human comedy.
A bit of a surprise all things considered. The hero is a man approaching fifty years with trepidation and approaching the wedding date of his lover of nine years to another with something more than trepidation. So, instead of sitting at home to face the prospect of both, off he goes to see the world through a chain of invitations he meant to decline, but now… the reader is off on a world-wide experience with Arthur Less.
When I say this book was a surprise, I meant that it was so much more than a down-hearted gay guy who thinks he’s hit his expiration date and roaming around the world. It dips back to reflect on his colorful past, distant and near, that led him to where he’s at in the present. His present day experiences and his reconciliation with his past start working on him as he contemplates his future.
Yes, it was very introspective, but it was wry with bittersweet musings. And let’s not forget the humor that only international travel mishaps can bring. And in the end, Less came into his own and I was happy to be there to see it because, for much of the book, Less never sees himself the way others around him and the reader sees him. He’s lived a grand, full life, but it takes a shifting of his world for him to finally see it.
Now, the surprises were not so welcome when I first started reading. It was not exactly what I thought I was getting so that took some adjusting. The writer’s style was another huge adjustment- it meanders, and in my copy, the dips into the past and the present are not delineated. A jump in time or narration thought can be from paragraph to paragraph so a few times I got twisted around. There is an omniscient narrator voice that will pop in mid-stream, too (that was a fun twist that I figured out and was happy to discover I was right).
Less is what I call ‘travel’ fiction though it doesn’t delve too deeply into the big sweeping sections of travel. I thought the author wove this part in organically so the reader had a good vista of Less’ travel stops, but it was alongside the adventure.
In summary, this turned out to be a book that I felt cozy with as I was there alongside Less for all his travels and epiphanies. It is one I would recommend, particularly if you enjoy ‘travel’ fiction, but also enjoy the protagonist who is introspective.
I rec’d this book from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.