Synopses & Reviews
Max Wolinsky is a forty-one-year-old, ethically challenged salesman from a family of mostly upstanding salesmen. He longs to become a better son and a better father, but when he returns home to Philadelphia for his son Nathanand#8217;s bar mitzvah, he knows it wonand#8217;t be easy. For one thing, it means going to his former home to see his ex-wife, whoand#8217;s now living with the gardener he once hired. It means facing his unhappy sonand#8217;s complaintsand#8212; Nathan is particularly upset about being forced to join a troop of kosher Boy Scouts. It also means hearing his father, Caleb, plead for him to move back to Philly from Florida. And it means trying to reconnect with Uncle Abe, once the familyand#8217;s most charismatic salesman, who hasnand#8217;t been able to speak coherently since his stroke.
If Max can be civil to his ex-wife, listen to his son, and pull off one last scam so his father and uncle can live a better life, everything just might turn out all right. What Max doesnand#8217;t know is that Uncle Abe has his own master plan for the family.
Responsible Men is by turns funny, poignant, and wise. Schwarzschild gets inside the hearts of men in prose that is both skillful and authentic.
"Wrapped up inside this debut novel about a shady salesman is a warm tale of father-son reconciliation. Like his father, Caleb, Max Wolinsky is a salesman but he's always had a bit of the con in him, starting with his college days scalping tickets in his hometown of Philly. The bright point of Max's life was his marriage to Sandy and the birth of their son, Nathan, but now Max and Sandy are divorced, and Max is relegated to dropping in from Key Largo for his son's Philadelphia bar mitzvah. Caleb no longer sells, but spends his days taking care of his brother Abe, who has been left nearly mute by a stroke. Even 13-year-old Nathan has it tough: his grandfather is pressuring him to join a kosher Boy Scout troop instead of letting him play baseball. As soon as he lands in town, Max starts a scam involving shares in a nonexistent retirement community a scam that runs him afoul of some nasty former partners-in-crime. But hope is on the horizon, too, in the form of Nathan's scoutmaster Mervyn Spiller, who has an elaborate scheme to import cheap Boy Scout uniforms from China. If some of these plot elements feel a bit too convenient, Schwarzschild makes up for it with evocative descriptions of his low-rent Philadelphia setting. Worn-out diners, bunker-like synagogues, no-frills bowling alleys, he clearly knows his terrain. Agent, Dorian Karchmar. (Apr. 8)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
“Schwarzschild writes . . . with compelling insight and emotional power. It is a rare authorial gift.”—Chicago Tribune Chicago Tribune
"Early in Schwarzschild's marvelous debut novel, Max Wolinsky issues a warning: 'Let the buyer beware.' But it's impossible to avoid falling for Max, even if he is a small-time con....That's how appealingly the author has designed our hero, not to mention his cohorts."
—Entertainment Weekly Entertainment Weekly
“[Responsible Men] combines suspense, drama and comedy to show the foibles and trespassings of a man struggling with all the usual ethical questions, and then some.” — San Francisco Chronicle The San Francisco Chronicle
“Think Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman or David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross. Now add to that brief list Responsible Men. . . . Eminently readable, frequently hilarious, and always deeply moving.”—Pages magazine Pages Magazine
Is there really such a thing as a responsible man? Max Wolinsky, a swindling salesman, asks this question when old associates want in on his latest scam. Further complicating the situation are family dysfunctions and Max's attempts to reconnect with his father, uncle, and teen-aged son.
Max Wolinsky comes from a family of mostly upstanding salesmen. On the eve of his son’s bar mitzvah, he returns home to Philadelphia, where he plans to put the finishing touches on a not-so-honorable business transaction and then head back to Florida. Nothing, though, goes as planned. Coming home, it seems, means coming to terms with his family. It means facing the expectations of his father, the needs of his stroke-addled uncle, and
the adolescent tribulations of his son.
If Max can be civil to his ex-wife, listen to his son, and pull off one last scam so his father and uncle can live a better life, everything might turn out all right. But Max doesn’t figure on meeting Estelle. And he certainly doesn’t count on his uncle, who, unbeknownst to anyone, has his own master plan for the family. Responsible Men lays bare a private world in prose that rings with honesty, intelligence, humor, wisdom, and, above all, humanity.
Max Wolinsky comes from a family of mostly upstanding salesmen. On the eve of his son's bar mitzvah he returns home to Philadelphia where he plans to put the finishing touches on a not-so-honorable business transaction and then disappear quietly back to Florida. Nothing, however, goes as planned for this con man with a conscience.
Honest, funny, and moving, Responsible Men is a portrait of three generations of men struggling to be good sons and good fathers in a world of big dreams and bigger temptations.
About the Author
Edward Schwarzschild is the author of Responsible Men, a San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of the Year, a Book Sense Notable Pick, and finalist for both the Rome Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the Samuel Goldberg and Sons Foundation Prize for Jewish Fiction. He is an associate professor at the University at Albany, SUNY, and a fellow at the New York State Writers Institute.