Gates followed up his rocket-fueled debut novel, the critically acclaimed
and Pulitzer Prize nominated Jernigan
with the somewhat different but equally compelling Preston Falls
seven years after Jernigan
, Preston Falls
is a brooding tragicomedy,
veering away from Jernigan
Heller territory towards that of Richard
Ford and Jonathan
Franzen. Doug and Jean Willis are a middle class couple with two children,
whose mortgages allow them a home in Westchester and a rural retreat up north
in Preston Falls. Having worked many years in public relations for Dandineau Beverages
creators of "Sportif: the original caffieine-laced Gatorade knockoff"
Doug plans a two month sabbatical during which he intends on indulging
in a lot of macho activity under the guise of working on the Preston Falls house.
He's not fooling Jean, who is well aware of, and in slight agreement with, his
need to just get away from it all for a while. However, in a combination of mid-life
crisis and cabin fever, Doug launches on a tempestuous, self-destructive trip
in which he tests the boundaries of his marriage and his sanity. Constructed in
alternate narratives, Jean's wry and poignant voice provides a superb counterpoint
to Doug's maniacal meltdown, and the combination is a chillingly astute portrait
of a middle class marriage going to hell. Georgie, Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
A finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, Jernigan introduced David Gates as a novelist of the highest order. "Full of dark truths and biting humor," wrote Frederick Exley, "a brilliant novel [that] will be read for a long time." After that blackly comic handbook of self-destruction whose antihero shoulders up to such crucial American figures as Bellows Herzog, Updikes Harry Angstrom, Hellers Bob Slocum, Percys Binx Bolling and Irvings Garp Gates's new novel investigates the essential truths of a marriage à la mode. Doug and Jean Willis fit the newly classic, recognizable and seemingly normal variety: struggling against a riptide of the daily commute, the mortgages, the latchkey child-rearing and the country house, as well as the hopes and desires from which all of this grew. In accordance with their long-standing agreement, Doug embarks from their Westchester home on a leave of absence from the PR job that had ineluctably become his life, while Jean contends with both her own job and their two children. Over a two-month period hell spruce up the familys alternative universe up north in rural Preston Falls; shell deal with her end of the bargain, and her worries about the survival of the family. But then domesticity hits the brick wall of private longings and nightmarish twists of fate. A surprising, comic, horrifying and always engrossing novel, charged with the responsibilities of middle age and with the abiding power of love, however disappointed told with great artistry, pitch-perfect understanding and fierce compassion.
"The strong, sad, disturbingly true second novel by the author of Jernigan speaks in two voices: one caustic and mockingly funny, the other more thoughtful but ruefully humorous.... [an] absorbing and sure novel." Malcolm Johnson, The Philadelphia Inquirer
"A novel that's the funniest, sharpest, most strangely exciting book about men and women in a long time." Tom Prince, Maxim
"David Gates has a superb reporter's precision, an analyst's ear, a teenager's glee in exposing deception and a moralist's eye that is as unforgiving as Evelyn Waugh's." New York Times Book Review
"Gates is a masterful chronicler of the dynamics of a family meltdown." Publishers Weekly
The supposed answer to Doug's mid-life crisis is a sabbatical at his rural retreat in Preston Falls, restoring the run-down farmhouse, reading and watching summer gently turn to autumn. Instead, he descends into Dewars-and-cocaine-fuelled disarray, embarking on a different journey altogether.