three-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
48-Sept-Oct-2010
By: 
Adam Ross
user_rating: 
0

A-Mr. PeanutAdam Ross is a New York City native and a graduate of Vassar College. Mr. Peanut is his first novel.

The Story: When David Pepin, a computer game designer, met his future wife Alice during a college film course, it was love at first sight. Now, after 13 years of marriage, Alice lies dead on their kitchen floor, done in by an allergic reaction to peanuts. Was it suicide? Or murder? David insists his wife killed herself, finally succumbing to a long history of depression. As police detectives Ward Hastroll and Sam Sheppard (the real-life doctor who, in 1954, was convicted of the murder of his pregnant wife) investigate her death, they begin to see unsettling parallels between the Pepin marriage and their own unhappy unions.
Knopf. 352 pages. $25.95. ISBN: 9780307270702

Cleveland Plain Dealer 3.5 of 5 Stars
"A primitive rage against the confines of society and marriage and therefore against women is its constant theme, and wives who read it may not sleep well for a few nights. Nonetheless, Mr. Peanut is memorable, a beautiful wreck of a first novel and a promise of great things to come." Nancy Connors

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 2.5 of 5 Stars
"The Marilyn section is one of several intensely imagined feats of writing, but they’re all a tough slough. ... [A] novel that when good, is very, very good, but when it’s bad, it’s confusing." Bob Hoover

Entertainment Weekly 2 of 5 Stars
"This story of a marriage, played out in flashbacks, is one of the most hyped novels of the summer--and for the life of me, I’m not sure why. ... [T]he book fails completely as a police procedural." Tina Jordan

New York Times 2 of 5 Stars
"No doubt the nightmarish fablelike elements in Mr. Peanut, like its deliberately complex structure, are meant to inflate the story of the Pepins into something larger and more representative. Instead they point up how anomalous David and Alice’s story really is, and they distract from the rich and variegated gifts of this audacious new writer." Michiko Kakutani

Wall Street Journal 2 of 5 Stars
"The prose ranges from the self-consciously artful to the undistinguished. And the novel’s marriage Angst, while yielding insights, goes on much too long." Alexander Theroux

Critical Summary

Despite an extensive, prepublication marketing blitz, critics were largely unimpressed with Ross’s debut novel. Most cited a convoluted plot and, worst of all, inadequate research. "Adam Ross, it’s clear, doesn’t know the first thing about murder investigations," noted Entertainment Weekly. A few were simply put off by the three men and their excessively dark views on marriage. Despite these critiques, several reviewers believed the author shows great promise, with the New York Times likening Ross to a "sorcerer with words." Although Mr. Peanut displays too many flaws to recommend, it will be interesting to see how the author’s career evolves.