Synopses & Reviews
David Pepin has been in love with his wife, Alice, since the moment they met in a university seminar on Alfred Hitchcock. After thirteen years of marriage, he still can't imagine a remotely happy life without her — yet he obsessively contemplates her demise. Soon she is
dead, and David is both deeply distraught and the prime suspect.
The detectives investigating Alice's suspicious death have plenty of personal experience with conjugal enigmas: Ward Hastroll is happily married until his wife inexplicably becomes voluntarily and militantly bedridden; and Sam Sheppard is especially sensitive to the intricacies of marital guilt and innocence, having decades before been convicted and then exonerated of the brutal murder of his wife.
Still, these men are in the business of figuring things out, even as Pepin's role in Alice's death grows ever more confounding when they link him to a highly unusual hit man called Mobius. Like the Escher drawings that inspire the computer games David designs for a living, these complex, interlocking dramas are structurally and emotionally intense, subtle, and intriguing; they brilliantly explore the warring impulses of affection and hatred, and pose a host of arresting questions. Is it possible to know anyone fully, completely? Are murder and marriage two sides of the same coin, each endlessly recycling into the other? And what, in the end, is the truth about love?
Mesmerizing, exhilarating, and profoundly moving, Mr. Peanut is a police procedural of the soul, a poignant investigation of the relentlessly mysterious human heart — and a first novel of the highest order.
"The buzz has been building for a year about this debut novel by Nashville writer Ross, and it turns out it's one of those rare cases where the word-of-mouth is valid. The book that's been giving Stephen King nightmares is a Möbius strip of a novel....An intellectual noir novel that shows evidence of an original voice." Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"The most riveting look at the dark side of marriage since Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?...It induced nightmares, at least in this reader. No mean feat." Stephen King
"Mr. Peanut is as ingenious as it is riveting." Richard Russo
"Adam Ross has crafted a diabolically intricate novel, one that presents all the pleasures and challenges of a well-wrought Sudoku puzzle. There's a whiff of alchemy to the book. You can't quite believe that its many pieces fit together so snugly, yet they do. Once you've finished, you run your eye back and forth and up and down, and every way you look it adds up. Mr. Peanut is smart, funny, gripping, and — in its ultimate unravelling — sneakily sad." Scott Smith
"The author has created an absorbing puzzle and handles the writing with skill, but the world inside this novel is fairly bleak and unsavory. Recommended for ambitious readers." Library Journal
"[A] dark, dazzling and deeply flawed novel that announces the debut of an enormously talented writer." Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
"Although perhaps a little too neatly clever at times, this compulsive thriller works as a sharp satire on loneliness and partnership, and is a beautifully crafted, gripping read." The Financial Times (UK)
"This book blew me away....It's engaging and gripping like a good murder mystery, but more richly layered and intellectually engaging than a beach read....I'm likening it to a great meal at a restaurant — the appetizer gains your trust, the first course provides some revelations, the second demonstrates the chef's skills, and the dessert just blows you away. Ross is truly a great wordsmith....[It] might be the best book I've read so far in 2010. In fact, it might be one of the best books of the year." Megan Sullivan (Harvard Book Store), Bookdwarf.com
"Her plight was dire; so, too, are the lives in Adam Ross's first novel, Mr. Peanut
(Knopf, $25.95). "No matter what they did, David thought, no matter how hard they tried, they'd always come back to this place of disappointment," Ross writes, and this place -- where one can carefully nurture inexplicable grudges; starve oneself to the point of fainting; fantasize in lurid detail about offing one's spouse; and nearly throw oneself, in a fit of spite, off a Hawaiian cliff -- is marriage." Adam Ross, Harper's Magazine
(Read the entire Harper's Magazine review
David Pepin has loved his wife since the moment they met and, after 13 years of marriage, he still can't imagine living without her — yet he obsessively contemplates her demise. Soon she is dead, and he's both deeply distraught and the prime suspect.
About the Author
Adam Ross lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with his wife and their two daughters. Visit him online at www.adam-ross.com.
Reading Group Guide
1. How do the three different marriages depicted in Mr. Peanut
relate to each other? What traits differentiate each marriage?
2. In our question and answer session with Adam Ross, he expressed his hope that “readers experience a series of recognitions. That they read about each marriage and say, ‘Yes, I’ve been there.’” What, if anything, struck a chord with you about the relationships in Mr. Peanut?
3. Are married people capable of change? Does Mr. Peanut answer this question?
4. Mobius remarks upon “the dual nature of marriage, the proximity of violence and love” (p. 178). Discuss how Mr. Peanut links marriage and violence.
5. How convincingly does Ross portray deep love alongside the ugly thoughts of deception, betrayals, and thoughts of murder? Does Mr. Peanut straddle this line with perfect balance, or do you feel the story tips one way or the other?
6. What is Mobius’s role in the novel?
7. How do M. C. Escher’s drawings manifest themselves in the narrative style and content of Mr. Peanut?
8. Is Mr. Peanut something other than straightforward narrative realism? Are there any obvious impossibilities within the novel? What do these deviations from reality mean within the context of the novel’s plot?
9. What do you make of the Alfred Hitchcock references in Mr. Peanut?
10. On page nine Sheppard reflects, “Murder . . . is an interruption of habit, or its culmination.” What do you think he means by that?
11. On page seventeen Ross writes, “We tell stories of other people’s marriages, Detective Hastroll thought. We are experts in their parables and parabolas. But can we tell the story of our own? If we could, there might be no murders.” How so?
12. How does Mr. Peanut relate to the fatal marriages we encounter in the news, e.g., the Dr. Sam Sheppard case and the O. J. Simpson case?
The questions, discussion topics, and suggestions for further reading that follow are designed to enhance your group's discussion of Adam Ross’s mesmerizing first novel, Mr. Peanut.