Scott Ryan is a man besieged. His opponents include coworkers, fellow commuters,  neighbors, and—above all—his house. Oh yes, and squirrels. Living in an area the police sometimes treat as if it’s under martial law, having to duck below window level when his commuter train passes through a Red Zone to avoid being shot, he soon discovers his urban dream has become an urban nightmare.

He and his wife Kathy have purchased a fixer-upper in a becoming-gentrified section of their unnamed city. With three small children and the burdens their new home has imposed, and despite Scott’s ascendancy in the market research company he works for, they’re in over their heads. Working on the house consumes the bulk of Scott’s time when he isn’t working. He still manages to fit in some tennis now and then, but reluctantly because the house has become his Circe, luring him inexorably back to it and demanding that he cater to its every need and want.

When he isn’t cheating on Kathy with several different partners, that is.

Scott’s first-person recounting of events seems at first reasonable, if sometimes edged with desperation. But the reader soon realizes that something is wrong, that he’s an utterly unreliable narrator, that he may or may not be seeing things that aren’t there, claiming to do things he really doesn’t.

Some of the neighborhood squirrels have invaded the house and taken up residence in the walls and attic crawl space. They become Scott’s obsession, and his attempts to eradicate them become steadily more frantic—and sometimes dangerous.

John Blades’ short serio-comic novel might well be described as Kafkaesque in its depiction of a man driven to fulfill but overwhelmed by the popular notion of the “American dream.” Crisply written, and peppered with evocative turns of phrase, its episodic structure builds to a memorable finish.

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