A wickedly funny, honest, and poignant debut novel in the spirit of Then We Came to the End and This Is Where I Leave You about the absurdity of corporate life, the complications of love, and the meaning of family.
Finbar Dolan is lost and lonely. Except he doesn’t know it. Despite escaping his blue-collar Boston upbringing to carve out a mildly successful career at a Madison Avenue ad agency, he’s a bit of a mess and closing in on 40. He’s recently called off a wedding. Now, a few days before Christmas, he’s forced to cancel a long-postponed vacation in order to write, produce, and edit a Superbowl commercial for his diaper account in record time.
Fortunately, it gets worse. He learns that his long-estranged and once-abusive father has fallen ill. And that neither of his brothers or his sister intend to visit. It’s a wake-up call for Fin to reevaluate the choices he’s made, admit that he’s falling for his co-worker Phoebe, question the importance of diapers in his life, and finally tell the truth about his life and his past.
First-time novelist John Kenney, a regular New Yorker contributor, mines his own advertising background to weave spot-on, compelling insider detail into a hilarious, insightful, at times sardonic, and ultimately moving debut.
©2013 John Kenney (P)2012 Simon & Schuster
This is "dysfunction noir", in the tradition of Tropper and Franzen, but with many more hilarious and comedic moments. Having spent many years in a profession similar to that of Finbar Dolan, the protagonist, I could completely relate to the characters in the ad agency and to their conflicts that come from the nature of the parts they must play. Basically this particular plot arc centers on the now-trite adage that the client is always right, and it doesn't matter how creatively you solve an issue, and how many branded celebrities you bring in to a campaign if the client does not relate. Fin both dislikes his job, or at least he doesn't love it, and does not feel "fulfilled" by it, but this is post-2008 financial crisis and he realizes it's a job he's been lucky enough to keep; the concept of fulfillment has been banished to job-market purgatory.
Fin's abusive childhood and his view of the familial nightmare that growing up in the Dolan family play into the present story to a large extent, without any need to hit the reader upside the head with the horrendous deviations from happy family life. There are glimpses into his past, and with those come a few of the reasons why the four siblings have become so estranged. However, the story, like life, is not without the occasional redemptive moment.
The cynical view of being creative on demand is fertile ground for humor, irony, and just plain laugh-out-loud episodes. How many times have I, or anyone else in that judgy, gossipy, whispery, micro-managed, performance-focused environment known as the office wanted to say to some co-worker or underling, or even over-ling, "I don't like your name, so from now on I'm calling you Barbara"?
Which all adds up to an unputdownable story with hilarious in-the-moment scenes from a life, traumatized from birth, channeled into some degree of success, both commercial and personal, seen through the cynical lens of Finbar Dolan.
The narration is perfect, as is the jacket cover - an "homage" to the proprietary Coca Cola font.
5 stars all on all counts.
One advantage of audiobooks is that you can distribute your attention among things other than the materiel. Commute, laundry, walking the dog, making a sandwich, all possible while simultaneously listening to a book. Reading however, means sitting in a chair with your complete attention on the book. As a consequence, my experience is that the comprehension and retention of the audiobook material is usually a fraction of that of a book book.While listening to TRUTH IN ADVERTISING it soon becomes obvious that this is a story to be savored, deserving of your full attention. The writing and the narration is so good that I found myself continually rewinding and replaying passages. I’ll leave a summation of the plot to others. I’ll simply say that the experience is funny, at times tragic, always for me, deeply affecting. Special mention of the narration by Robert Petkoff: it is superb. He uses accents and dramatic reading to great effect. You will enjoy this audiobook while sitting in your favorite chair, not while doing the dishes.
Added Audible to my 2 hour commute, consuming books at rapid pace, and rating books based on keeping me engaged and making time fly!
I wanted to like this story. Finn Dunbar is a likeable guy - a guy you might meet at a bar and be excited to "add" on facebook and enjoy occasional witty exchange with - but get into a deeper conversation and you'd learn he's just "meh". Why? Well, the author tries too hard to be superficial and blase, and his style of writing dialogue - "I say....; Ian says...; Phoebe says..." in short bursts is just bland. This also greatly troubled the performance - despite a crisp and clear voice, the narrator could not introduce much variation to the characters because they were so flatly written. Out of a recent mass consumption of audiobooks, this one completely failed to serve its purpose - keep me entertained during one hour commutes. Instead, I caught myself daydreaming and constantly having to back up the story, if I even cared enough at the moment to even fill in the gaps of the weak plot. Sorry.
Knowledge is knowing the way. Wisdom is looking for an alternative, more interesting road to get there. Audiobooks are that road.
This novel seems to have two distinct threads. The first is about Fin Dolan, 39, an advertising copywriter working in a New York advertising agency. He has recently broken off his engagement and is working on a bio-degradable diaper commercial scheduled to air during the superbowl. While there are plenty of stories in the first half of the novel about different brands, scenes and experiences of working at an agency, Geery is great at spinning these scenarios though humour and sarcasm.
As we enter the second half of the novel we get more into the family dynamics and what makes Fin the person he is. For me this is the meat and potatoes of the book. We meet his siblings and his parents. His estranged abusive father is dying and he struggles with the guilt of doing the right thing.
He also struggles with information he’s suppressed about his mother and old memories are rekindled. I’m really glad I stuck it out, because while the first half was rather shallow and cute, the second half gave me what I was looking for – a connection to Fin. One of my favorite people in the book is Keita, a wealthy Japanese client who has issues with his own father and takes a liking to Fin. The two of them commiserate to make sense of who they are.
The book is funny, but it really hits home that you are a product of your upbringing. People are who they are for a reason. Robert Petkoff did a great job. Had it not been for his engaging narration, I'm pretty sure I would not have finished this book.
I would definitiely listen to this again, because I enjoyed how the author entertwined laugh-out-loud, wry humor with a very real pathos. This is the story of an advertising executive who looks at everything in his life thorugh the lens of television commercial, which allows him to distance himself from what's going on in his actual day-to-day existance. He wants the happy endings he creates in TV commercials. But he just doesn't know how to get there without a script, beautiful cinematography, great lighting, and a pitch-perfect musical acompaniment. It is the tale of how a man who makes a living orchestrating illusions learns at last to trust, even in what cannot be scripted.
I reallly loved the gentle friendship that develops between the main character and the never-been-loved son of a Japanese corporate magnate. And Petkoff does a spot-on Japaness accent that brought this character to life, without descending into parody.
I do have to say that the climactic scene in which the main character blows up in front of his boss should go down in the Memorable Moments in Modern Literature Hall of Fame. I laughed so hard. Then I backed the chapter up and listened to it again. So, so brilliantly funny. And what we'd all love to say to our boss, but never will.
Petkoff did a fabulous job bringing all the characters to life. His timing is perfect and each character has a distinct voice. I especially loved his interpretation of the egomaniacl, once-famous Hollywood director trying to turn a diaper commercial into high art. It's a brilliantly written scenario, made better by Petkoff's narration.
In a world of illusions, love is still the one real thing.
I bought this book because I read a previous review in which TRUTH IN ADVERTISING was compared to books by Jonathan Tropper. I've devoured everything Tropper has written and was interested to see if John Kenney was up to the comparison. Happily, I can report that the answer is "yes," and then some.
Like several of Tropper's novels, TRUTH revolves around a mid-life crisis, father-son estrangements, and family ties that strangle. I must admit it took me a little longer to get into the rhythm of TRUTH, but I quickly became a fan and found myself eager to see how this story would unfold.
My best barometer of how much I like any book is how many friends I've recommended it to. Where TRUTH IN ADVERTISING is concerned, the answer is "many."
It's well-written, thought-provoking, and a grand pot-shot at the weird world of advertising.
Obviously from my ratings, I loved this story. The narrator was brilliant and the story was great! Fin is a fun character and a guy with whom I could knock back a few. His hangups are a bit much, but realistic, as people don't ever just "get over" tragedies in their lives, especially when they happen at a very young age.
Even Fin's attitude toward his job (at least he has one) is realistic. This is a great story for anyone who just wants a fun, light read/listen.
12 step program please. I am addicted to Audible! I love trashy sexy books, award winning novels and everything between. Bring it!
Absolutely. I REALLY enjoyed this audio - there is so much to like about this listen. As far as I'm concerned, this is a hidden gem among the audible library files. This book has it all...it's funny, and sad, thoughtful, laugh out loud, cynical and smart. The protagonist is a lonely, lovable man-child. Finn is a successful and self deprecating advertising copywriter who has come to an impasse in his life and his typical "let me spin this &*^%" no longer works because his past has caught up with him and he has to face some tough truths.
Finn's sense of humor. His character reminded me of a Nick Hornby character. He is a vulnerable, likeable, as well as flawed.
Robert Petkoff was great. This was my first listen by him and he was so good. He brought life to every character and nailed it!
Worth a credit and time. Enjoy!
No, I rarely want to listen to a book a second time.
The story "hit the nail on the head" several times, which I found entertaining and thought provoking. However, I got tired of Finn not being truly happy.
Robert Petkoff is amazing reading this book. The best narrator I have heard so far!!!
I enjoyed Truth in Advertising. At first I was a bit disinterested in the workings of the advertising agency and the selling of diapers. But as the story moves on you are brought into the main character's inner life and his discovery of redemption and love. Then things get interesting and you find yourself saying "Yeah, I've felt like that too."
The main character's experience with his father's ashes.
Great narration, but the story didn't capture me. I found myself really starting to hate the protagonist for how self centered, whiny and cowardly he was. My biggest pet peeve of John Kenney's as a writer is that with long sets of dialogue the only introduction used is "he said," "she said," "I said." Maybe it works on the page, but listening to it is ridiculous!
It's an easy "airplane" read, but not a "must read."
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