Book Title: Carousel Court
Author: Joe McGinniss Jr
Genres: Literary Fiction, Suspense, Contemporary, Domestic Fiction
Date Read: 08/11/16
Pub Date: 08/02/16
Nick and Phoebe Maguire are a young couple with big dreams who move across the country to Southern California in search of a fresh start for themselves and their infant son following a devastating trauma. But they move at the worst possible time, into an economic crisis that spares few. Instead of landing in a beachside property, strolling the organic food aisles, and selecting private preschools, Nick and Phoebe find themselves living in the dark heart of foreclosure alley, surrounded by neighbors being drowned by their underwater homes who set fire to their belongings, flee in the dead of night, and eye one another with suspicion while keeping twelve-gauge shotguns by their beds. Trapped, broke, and increasingly desperate, Nick and Phoebe each devise their own plan to claw their way back into the middle class and beyond. Hatched under one roof, their two separate, secret agendas will collide in spectacular fashion.
A blistering and unforgettable vision of the way we live now, Carousel Court paints a darkly honest portrait of modern marriage while also capturing the middle-class America of vanished jobs, abandoned homes, psychotropic cure-alls, infidelity via iPhone, and ruthless choices.
While I am fully aware that this book will not be for everyone, I do believe it will be for someone who is on my friends list! This was a very different book; sure it had some of the same elements as (oh no, please tell me she’s not going to, yep here it comes) Gone Girl, but if you enjoyed that book and are looking for another one to give you that sort of domestic-suspense-feeling that doesn’t depend solely on a massive twist, this one might be for you. This could be my most challenging review of the year, but I think if I can break down a few of the aspects that I loved, along with some that the general population might have issue with, you can decide for yourself to give this a go. It was really hard to categorize this one; I flip flopped all around whether this was a psychological thriller, literary fiction, or something of it’s own-the answer is yes.
If you have major problems reading stories of all types of explicit content, such as illicit relationships and affairs, drugs and alcohol, criminal activity of many kinds, and broken families with a young child in the mix, this book is definitely not for you. There is also a brief section involving disturbing content with a pet; again, you know if this is not for you. If you have a hard time with intellectual books that aren’t snobby, but heavy on the character development and lighter on the racing action, not for you. Are you still with me? If so, follow along and I’ll try to break down some of the highlights minus the spoilers.
I wish I could put my finger on what exactly made this book a magical read for me. For some reason, it seemed to have all the components at just the right time of picking this up to capture my intrigue from beginning to end with a deeper grip. As I stated above, this was a slow building, dread increasing, disturbingly realistic outlook on an everyday marriage and the brinks it could go to in desperate measures. The book is set around the backdrop of the 2008 recession, and whether you experienced financial hardships first hand or just followed the housing market via the news, everyone remembers a piece of what it was like living in that year. Some people lost everything and were completely devastated; others lost just enough to be drowning while clawing at the surface to survive. I’m grateful to not have been fully adulting at that time, but this book did make me go back and wonder what could have happened to my marriage if we had been placed in this very predicament. I don’t think any of us can say for sure how we would react in desperate times unless we have been there, and in this story both halves have split their own way unbeknownst to the other with a secretive, devious plan to survive.
The element that made this most realistic of all was their toddler son. That poor boy was strung right in the middle of all types of shady business; my heart was pounding through many scenes as a mother of little nuggets and I wanted to cover my eyes while peeking through my fingers. Its a train wreck people; you want to look away but you just can’t. I’m still not sure how I feel about the ending, but the sheer fact that I keep thinking about it and have been continually wrestling it in my mind is what sealed a 5 STAR rating for my review. I’m not sure how many will be brave enough to take this one on, but if you do, you surely will be rewarded with a satisfying challenge that will haunt you long after the ending.
* I received a finished copy from the author via Simon & Schuster in exchange for a fair and honest review. Super grateful and have kept it on my special shelf to look and and pet occasionally, because it’s super soft and the gold is shiny and pretty. Cover art for the win!