Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
As he did brilliantly in Netherland, O'Neill, in his latest, creates a character who is alienated from his home and social class, and who feels dangerously vulnerable in a country in which he lives a luxurious but precarious existence. The unnamed narrator (we do learn that his given name begins with X) fled from his position in a Manhattan law firm after a bad breakup with a colleague. Feeling lucky at first to get a job in Dubai as "family officer" of the wealthy Batros family, the narrator discovers that he must ignore his ethical principles in order to do the blatantly illegal work required of him. Everyone encountered by the narrator is corrupt, except for his assistant, Ali, who is a bidoon-a stateless person lacking basic human rights. O'Neill's Dubai is "a vast booby trap of medieval judicial perils," and the narrator gets caught in "one fucking glitch after another." Gradually, the sordidness of his situation wears down the his psychological defenses. His agitated thoughts, which the author conveys in pitch-perfect prose, become more and more muddled; his asides within asides (indicated by multiple parentheses) veer into philosophical ramblings and recurrent mea culpas, as he accuses himself of "chronic self-misrepresentation and inner absenteeism." The narrator develops an obsession with the disappearance of another American man, even while his own life cascades toward a dead end. Clever, witty, and profoundly insightful, this is a beautifully crafted narrative about a man undone by a soulless society. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Kirkus Book Review
Lost love impels a New York lawyer to try to change his life with a job overseas in this circuitous, unsettling novel.ONeill (Netherland, 2008, etc.) returns to his previous novels theme of displacement as he depicts a man, known only as X., doing legal work in Dubai for a wealthy Lebanese family. He gradually reveals how he and his lover, lawyers in the same Manhattan firm, grew distant and then broke up over the question of starting a family. In the emirate, he shuffles paper, visits prostitutes, has pedicures and provides an informal travelogue on the nouveau riche of his new realm. He ponders the disappearance of another expatriate in Dubai named Ted Wilson, a scuba diver nicknamed the Man from Atlantis after a 1970s TV show about the lone survivor of that mythical civilization. X. learns of bidoons, stateless persons common throughout the Persian Gulf. He hears of an Iranian who runs into visa problems after going through passport control at the Dubai airport and decides to live in its duty-free area. X. himself was born in Switzerland and raised in the U.S. He mulls enlisting in the French Foreign Legion. While the variations of displacement resonate engagingly, the reader must navigate a patchwork of prose styles, from slang to 200-word sentences to syllogistic gobbledygook to deadly legalese. Its as if the narrator is seeking a viable language to communicate from his inner Robinson, as in Crusoe, and the inward island on which he must be marooned. ONeill gets some much-needed comic effects from the linguistic jigsaw puzzle, although hes also capable of outright funny momentsa scene on a yacht includes confirmation that gratuitous domestic nudity is prevalent among the rich and famous.Shades of Kafka and Conrad permeate ONeills thoughtful modern fable of exile, a sad story that comments darkly on the human condition and refuses bravely to trade on the success of Netherland. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
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