July 01, 2010
JC: Jim Othmer’s first novel, The Futurist, found its way to my pile of books-to-be-read several years ago courtesy of JR, who was walking around the office raving about it. That ambitious satire, centered around Yates, the man who sells his idea of the future, regardless of the consequences, nails the materialism that immerses us all.
His new novel, Holy Water is the story of Henry Tuhoe, miserable germaphobic cog in the multinational machine. Henry uses his trusty iPod to tune in the soundtrack to his life — the perfect song, or if necessary, playlist, for every situation. It helps to make the best of his mindless job as a product manager for deodorants and his increasingly insane wife, which are slowly sucking the life out of him.
Othmer does a great job in the section showing how Henry and Rachel got to where they are: starting out a happy, upwardly mobile Manhattan couple, socializing and working in the city, handsomely rewarded for it. On a whim, based on a trip to the suburbs, they decide that their time in the city has come to an end — that they should move to Long Island and start a family. The smug wink-and-nod cynicism and their unraveling is reminiscent of Revolutionary Road, but, you know, really funny, including an excruciating, more-than-you-want-to-know account of vasectomies. A lot more.
But on this particular day, Tehoe’s got bigger problems. His boss gives him the option: either take a transfer to the third world wonderland Galado to open a call center for a bottled water company or you’re fired. Rachel unhinges herself and he heads for the verdant mountains of Galado.
I’ll leave the plot summary there. Othmer’s novel is populated by strange and twisted characters, some of whom seem to have fallen from the outtakes of a Tom Robbins novel. His wit and satirist’s touch echo both Will Self and George Saunders, especially Saunder’s repeated themes of the absurdity of consumerism.
Holy Water is fine book: funny, smart and strangely hopeful for revolution. Highly recommended.