My Father’s Diet – Adrian Nathan West
In a broken-down Middle American town, the disintegration of a struggling family – its ambitions and emotions worn thin – is laid bare through the cold eyes of its only son. While studying at the local community college to finish his degree, he works what his divorced parents deem to be menial jobs and tries to stay out of their way, keeping his pitiless observations about their lives to himself. He says nothing about his semi-estranged father’s doomed attempts to find meaning in strip-mall spirituality.
He says nothing about his mother’s willingness to subjugate herself to men he deems unworthy. He says nothing about the anonymity and emptiness to which their social classes and places of birth seem to have condemned everyone he knows, robbing them of even the vocabulary to express their grievances. He says nothing about his own pity, disgust, compassion, tenderness, and love – and when his father enters a bodybuilding competition, he swallows his scorn and agrees to help.
Instantly relatable, impeccably realized, and grimly hilarious, My Father’s Diet is equal parts Kierkegaard, This Side of Paradise, and Pumping Iron: an autopsy of antiquated notions of manhood, and the perfect, bite-sized novel for a world always keen to mistake narcissism for introspection.