Friday, September 20, 2013

The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P

The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P.  by Adelle Waldman

Adelle Waldman managed to crawl into the mind of her male protagonist and share his gender's thought processes with us.  I thought that, maybe, I should wait and see what a man thought about this.  I wondered if I felt she had Nate spot on, or if it was just what women think that men are thinking. Not that Nate's behaviors are strictly "man behavior", because I'm sure plenty of women can see themselves reflected here.

Sure, women can be hard to love and often, tender feelings change her from the person he first found himself attracted to.  That certainly applies to men as well.

Nathaniel Piven was raised by emigrant parents who escaped poverty and rose in their respective fields here in America. They are living what they imagined as the American Dream in their ranch style house in the Baltimore suburbs. They send their son to private school and he excels in school, making it into Harvard.  There his ideas of wealth and popularity are challenged by a very different group of peers. He finds his place, and the parts of himself that are available for discovery at that point in his life.  

The reader gets the complete picture of each woman in Nate's life from his earliest crush to the present. We see where he gets it right and where he gets it wrong.  Any female reader will see bits of herself in one or all of these women.  You also get to see the full spectrum of men and their takes on women and relationships in his friends.  

I don't want to give away any of this book.  It's an anthology of discovering you are a grown up. It's a sociological perspective of the literati in Brooklyn and their constantly evolving strata.  It's an intellectual's look at the world around him and his version of events.  It's a never quite soul baring account of loves found and lost, by a man who is part sweet and smart and part clueless clown who is as guilty of throwing the wrench into a relationship as he thinks his partners are. 

Waldman captures that period of time, after college but before truly settling into the rest of your life and she does it so realistically that you can pick out your friends and acquaintances from those years in each of her characters. This is one of the best pieces of literary fiction I've read this year and I'm glad that I got to spend time in Nate's world. I didn't always agree with him. In fact, I often wanted to shake him. But, I wouldn't have wanted to miss out on him and his life.

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