Today a college friend sent a screenshot on our ‘College Dude’ thread of his music app playing Daft Punk’s Around the World, one of our favorite songs from our days of drinking Natural Light. My ten friends on the thread live all across the country and work in a myriad of professions. We graduated from a West-Coast liberal arts college twenty years ago, and as a baby boomer, my father graduated from college twenty-five years prior. I was reading this book while I got the text, and it got me thinking about my friends, and what our challenges have been and will be compared to the prior generations: medicare, social security, global job markets, tech-changing industries… the list goes on.
Daniel Torday’s distinctly current novel Boomer1 focuses on characters who like some of my friends are trying and failing to find success in traditional American ventures in the new millenium. Torday switches the point of view between three main characters. From music to marriage to journalism, Mark tries to find success in New York City, but either the game has changed or there just isn’t room for him in a narrowing profession. Cassie joins a punk band only to have them split on her, but finds a friend and bandmate in bluegrass-playing Mark. And Mark’s mom Julia was once a burgeoning member of the 1960s counterculture music scene, but fell into a life she never thought she’d have.
As the story moves forward, Cassie is able to find success in the new journalism scene putting together “advertorials,” but Mark fully rejects his NYC life and moves back into the basement of his boyhood home. His anger metamorphosizes into an online alter ego by the name of Isaac Abramson and the handle Boomer1. He produces “Boomer Missives,” which spurs a movement of anarchy in the face of the generation who took the spoils of the post-war boom. With his infamy, Mark wonders what he has unleashed as he experiences the freedom of the anonymity of the internet.
Torday’s novel speaks directly to a certain audience; the music and cultural references are nostalgic, but not overly sentimental. While the novel may have a slow start, the narrative hits its stride after a couple chapters, and the last hundred pages hold some of the best writing I’ve read all year. There were some problems with inconsistent language, which can even be slightly inflated at times. I assume this was an effort to vary the different character’s points of views, but it came across as unbalanced. The multiple points of view work well, especially when they slightly overlap and the reader experiences the same plot points through a different lense.
Daniel Torday’s Boomer1 is a very good novel that focuses on what people do to maintain relationships and to stick to their ideals, even in the face of hypocrisy. Even with some flaws, Torday’s ideas are genuine and hold important questions for the current generation. I enjoyed Boomer1 and will definitely recommend it.
4 out of 5 stars
Comes out on September 18th, 2018.
Thank you to NetGalley, St. Martin’s Press, and Daniel Torday for the advanced copy for review.