I tend to lean toward writers that I like personally and that are genuinely good people - James Hall, Tim Dorsey, Carl Hiaasen, James Swain, Michael Connelly, Jeffrey Shaara, etc. I try to avoid those who I know to be or who are reputed to be churlish, arrogant, etc. like Paul Theroux. I mean, why put funds in the pockets of those who cannot bother to at least be civil to their fellow man?
Sometimes, however, the talent overrides the deficits in personality and warrant a look at the work. I find Theroux to be a very talented writer but a bit uneven. I've enjoyed much of his travel related non-fiction but tend to find his fiction to be quite variable in quality. Still, he is a wordsmith of rare quality so when I came across this story I decided to give it a look.
The theme is a common one. One reaches the golden years and remembers the glories of youthful days. In this case, as his life collapses around him - his wife discovers text messages to some of the women who shop at his men's clothing store on a cell phone she bought him. Said messages are more in the line of a friendly familiarity than of a lascivious nature but that doesn't seem to matter as the relationship ends in divorce, the daughter demands "her share" lest he start a new family and squeeze her out of her just rewards, his business is trapped in a downward spiral due to cheap imports and the move to casual dress styles.
So, thinks he, when was he the happiest in his life? Why, the 4 years he spent as a Peace Corps volunteer in a small village in Africa, where he built a school, started a medical clinic and developed a fascination with snakes. Well, dump his life, load up a satchel with money and head on back there for adulation and respect, a life of ease among the villagers.
Naturally, a bit has changed in 40 years and it is the current state of the village that entraps him in many ways. The question hangs over the story as it unfolds, "What would you do? How? When?" Other questions related to the nature of life and man hang over the story as well.
Certainly a worthy and entertaining read.