“One of my favorite things as a bookseller is The Discovery: finding a book in the pile of advance reading copies that speaks to me in a way that is utterly unique and compelling, a story that sings directly to my heart and stuns me with its voice. So far, Dean Bakopoulos’s latest novel is The Discovery for me this year.
Something about the honesty, awkwardness, and absurdity of the narrator, Zeke Pappas, struck me right away. He is the young director of the Great Midwestern Humanities Initiative, simultaneously idealistic and pessimistic. Zeke has a full heart but a lonely life; even his mother is concerned enough about his lack of relationships that she clips advice from magazines about finding love. Zeke creates a project called “An Inventory of American Unhappiness,” inviting Americans to share their experiences. These snapshots of woe (major and minor) are hilarious, but Zeke’s obsession with the project is funny and heartbreaking. As America reveals itself to Zeke, he explores his own unhappiness and tries to do something about it. Poor Zeke works hard to connect with the world in hopes of happiness: a romantic prospects list, frequent visits to Starbucks to spend time with his favorite barista, caring for his mother, taking in his young nieces. Is happiness (or unhappiness) something that can be controlled? I laughed out loud. I read bits to random seatmates on a plane, and yes, I even cried before I was done. If you liked Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris and The Financial Lives of the Poets or Citizen Vince by Jess Walter, I think my latest Discovery is for you, too.”—Tegan Tigani, Queen Anne Books, Seattle
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