A piercing epistolary novel, The Antagonist explores, with wit and compassion, how the impressions of others shape, pervert, and flummox both our perceptions of ourselves and our very nature.
Gordon Rankin Jr., aka "Rank", thinks of himself as "King Midas in reverse"—and indeed misfortune seems to follow him at every turn. Against his will and his nature, he has long been considered—given his enormous size and strength—a goon and enforcer by his classmates, by his hockey coaches, and, not least, by his “tiny, angry” father. He gamely lives up to their expectations, until a vicious twist of fate forces him to flee underground. Now pushing 40, he discovers that an old, trusted friend from his college days has published a novel that borrows freely from the traumatic events of Rank's own life. Outraged by this betrayal and feeling cruelly misrepresented, he bashes out his own version of his story in a barrage of e-mails to the novelist that range from funny to furious to heartbreaking.
With The Antagonist, Lynn Coady demonstrates all of the gifts that have made her one of Canada’s most respected young writers. Here she gives us an astonishing story of sons and fathers and mothers, of the rewards and betrayals of male friendship, and a large-spirited, hilarious, and exhilarating portrait of a man tearing his life apart in order to put himself back together.
If you've ever seen a self you barely recognize reflected back in the eyes of another, you know the agonizing frustration consuming protagonist Rank as "The Antagonist" begins. Frustration deepens into anger as Rank ruminates on the injustice of how a former friend turned novelist Adam has "stolen" his life for a recent book. Luckily for the reader, when Rank is angry, Rank is very sarcastic, very caustic, and very funny.
The story unfolds in a series of emails to his old college buddy, Adam. After reading Adam's book, Rank is determined to set the record straight. Adam's treatment of Rank's past and person is both intrusive and reductive. How can some events loom so large in Adam's "novel" while the thing that rocked Rank's world is dismissed with one sentence? The answers come but not without raising more questions - and this keeps the reader hooked into the tale until the very last word.
Narrator MacLeod Andrews was great - perfectly pacing Rank's smart, articulate rants while giving poignant moments the respect and emotion they deserved. The story is set in eastern Canada so there are some speech patterns and inflections to contend with and Andrews does this well.
I devoured this book IN ONE DAY. I know. But I just kept finding projects to do that enabled me to keep listening. It was that good. Author Lynn Coady has done a masterful job addressing the many components of identity while telling a deceptively simple but riveting story.
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