Just Another Week in Suburbia is Les Zig’s first novel. It begins with Casper Gray literally stumbling on evidence that Jane, his wife, may be having an affair. He can’t bring himself to ask her, so he stews about it, leaving him distracted and absent in ways that lead him into some poor judgments at the school where he teaches. A colleague, Beth, is in a crisis in her relationship, wanting her lover Roger to fish or cut bait. He suspects the friendly neighborhood drug dealer might be harassing one of his students. His bullying neighbor is threatening his dog and the neighbor’s wife is, perhaps, making a pass at him. And his anniversary is coming up. He does not know what to do, so he doesn’t do much.
Casper is a nice guy. He’s a good husband, a good friend. He cares about people and loves his dog Wallace who happens to be my favorite character. He has a week from hell, including run-ins with several angry men, his supervisor, his friend’s lover, his neighbor, and the drug dealer. However, he is very passive. He is like most of us, thinking of what we want to say, what we should have said, but not saying it. Will any straw ever break this camel’s back?
I wavered between sympathy for and impatience with Casper in Just Another Week in Suburbia. He makes poor choices at school, allowing kids to smoke, to make out, and perhaps buy drugs because why? Is it because he dislikes his supervisor or because he doesn’t want to be unpopular? Or is it just too much bother? He sounds like someone who is a good teacher, but desperate to be liked rather than respected. However, when it all comes to a crisis, he finds he has unsuspected strength.
There is some catharsis that I enjoyed. There is a scene with the neighbor that made me happy, though honestly, the trouble with the neighbor is partly his fault through his neglect to reinforce the dirt under his fence with some chicken wire so his dog can’t get out. There are some important ideas in this story. What does trust mean? Can trust be restored? What is happiness? What makes a relationship work? Can you choose happiness? The story is a bit light to carry so much weight though.
Just Another Week in Suburbia was released September 1st. I received an electronic e-galley from Pantera Press through NetGalley.