Saturday, September 11, 2010

Book 45: Mr. Peanut
Adam Ross

Marriage has been a theme the last couple of weeks.  No, I'm not planning my own. However, my friend Michelle is planning a wedding, and conversation at our recent girls night out dinner with another friend focused largely on how hard couples must work to be happily married. I read Bad Marie, in which Marie has an affair with father of the child in her charge.  Then I read Mr. Peanut which unravels the mystery surrounding the death of Alice Pepin while examining marriage in general through the relationships of other characters.

I've been finished with Mr. Peanut for over a week now.  I needed a few days to formulate what I wanted to say. Then I spent last weekend geeking out at Dragon*Con. After that, I still needed time to think about what I want to say about Mr. Peanut.  Why? This is Ross' debut novel. He delves into uncomfortable territory- the dark parts of the mind, where a spouse might imagine being suddenly free of his/her partner. He explores the cyclical nature of marriage, the best, blissful, fully connected parts and the lowest, desolate, despairing moments when both partners must decide if they even want to go forward. And he does it all with symbolism, beautiful prose, and forcing readers to go to the darkest places of their own minds all the while spinning a page turning tale that leaves you demanding to know what happens next.

The unravelling of the marriage of David and Alice Pepin, and the mystery of whether David killed Alice or if she committed suicide, is only one part of the story.  There's also the relationship between Detective Hastroll and his wife, and the telling of Ross' interpretation of Sam Sheppard and the murder of his wife. At the same time, there's Pepin's version of his own marriage in a novel he is writing.

At first glance, Ross' view of marriage is a bleak one, more dark than light.  But on closer reading, there's so much more to it than that.  There's caring enough to be pissed off at not understanding one's spouse. There are moments where your heart breaks a little for these characters, just trying to make their relationship work.

The art of M.C. Escher ( and the films of Alfred Hitchcock ( symbolize the frenetic feelings and categorizations of of marriage throughout the novel.  I was not familiar with Escher before this book. I recommend browsing through his work before reading the book.  I'd seen a handful of the Hitchcock films, but just signed up for Netflix so that I can see more of them.

At times, reading Mr. Peanut is trying. There's so much going on, and stories within stories and various points of view narrating throughout that it almost feels chaotic. But that's the point, and Ross does it well.  To fully absorb this book, it must be read more than once.  I plan to read it again after watching a few of these Hitchcock films.  But I call Mr. Peanut  one of my top reads of 2010.

Two other book blogs I follow interviewed Mr. Ross.  I highly recommend reading through these posts.  Part 1 can be found here at The Book Lady's Blog ( and Part 2 at Brews and Books (


  1. I love the way you describe looking at other artists' work to understand this novel... I enjoy visual arts, and m.c. escher in in particular. I'm going to be back to read what you've been doing the first part of 2010!

  2. Thanks much. I am newly introduced to Escher, and like what I am seeing so far. I like how reading the book can be enriched by understanding/appreciating other art forms and arts. I do plan to re-read the book myself later this year.