Sugar street A novel

Jonathan Dee

Book - 2022

"In Jonathan Dee's elegant and explosive new novel, Sugar Street, an unnamed male narrator has hit the road. Rid of any possible identifiers, his possessions amount to $168,548 in cash stashed in an envelope under his car seat. Vigilantly avoiding security cameras, he drives until he hits a city where his past is unlikely to track him down, and finds a room to rent from a less-than-stable landlady whose need for money outweighs her desire to ask questions. He seems to have escaped his ...former self. But can he? In a story that moves with swift dark humor and insight, Dee takes us through his narrator's attempt to disavow his former life of privilege and enter a blameless new existence. Having opted out of his material possessions and human connections, the pillars of his new self-simplicity, kindness, above all invisibility-grow shakier as he butts up against the daily lives of his neighbors in their politically divided working-class city. With the suspense of a thriller and the grace of our best literary fiction, Dee unspools the details of our unlikely hero's former life and his developing new one in a drumbeat roll up to a shocking final act. Dee has been compared by the Wall Street Journal to authors such as Jonathan Franzen and Jennifer Egan for his expansive, contemporary, social novels; Sugar Street is a leaner, more personal, but still uncannily timely look at the volatile America of today. A risky, engrossing, and surprisingly visceral story about a white man trying to escape his own troubling footprint and start his life over"--

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FICTION/Dee, Jonathan
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Subjects
Genres
Novels
Thrillers (Fiction)
Psychological fiction
Published
New York : Grove Press 2022.
Edition
First Grove Atlantic hardcover edition
Language
English
Physical Description
206 pages ; 22 cm
ISBN
9780802160003
080216000X
Main Author
Jonathan Dee (author)
Review by Booklist Reviews

This compelling and thrilling novel begins with an unnamed narrator on the run with an envelope full of money and one plan, to disconnect from all technology. After abandoning his car, he hides in a working-class neighborhood where immigrants are being terrorized by ICE. He lives in a room rented from a cantankerous landlady, Autumn, who is suspicious of his every move. He allows himself the luxury of only a small radio, and he spends his days surreptitiously watching the dynamics of the local children as if they are a TV show. Diligently avoiding all security cameras, he wanders the city, constantly ensuring his digital footprint is nonexistent. While very different than Dee's last novel, the expansive and much-praised The Locals (2017), his latest shares some traits of his earlier fiction in the setting and how he depicts the violence and destruction of governmental policies. His humor is reminiscent of Jean-Philippe Toussaint's Television (1997), and the propulsive plot echoes Dave Eggers' You Shall Know Our Velocity (2003). Dee's impressive versatility is on display once again in this scintillating and entertaining tale. Copyright 2022 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

How does one disappear in a city full of people? This is the problem facing the narrator of this latest from Pulitzer Prize finalist Dee (The Privileges). Dee introduces us to…well, we don't know who. All we know of our nameless narrator is that he is on the run for stealing a sum of money he believes will last him the rest of his life. To cover his tracks, he changes his name and abandons everything that can be connected to him. The best place for him to hide? A city. On Sugar Street, to be exact. But it turns out that people and connections to them are not so easy to avoid. Over time, while he continues to "hide," his interactions with the people around him increase until they reach the point where the walls of his isolation crumbles, and he is discovered. Though we never find out his name or very much about him, his voice and his story are compelling. VERDICT A story of the desperation and ultimate impossibility of isolation, Dee's narrative is a spider web of questions that won't let readers go, questions like where does insanity begin and end? Readers of Dee's earlier novels will not want to miss this page-turner.—Michael F. Russo Copyright 2022 Library Journal.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Dee returns 11 years after his Pulitzer finalist The Privileges with an energetic character study of a white man determined to escape from his life. It starts with a burst of electric first-person action, as the unnamed narrator drives on back roads across the country, keeping off the interstate to avoid cameras, with $168,048 in cash. The narrator dishes an acerbic perspective on the passing roadside ("unzoned hellscapes in which every fast-food restaurant on earth operates a franchise side by side") and his aversion to surveillance belies a vague paranoia. He rents an unlisted room in a small unspecified city from Autumn, a healthcare worker and heavy drinker. There, his self-imposed isolation proves easier in theory than practice. After a child named Abiha accidentally drops her notebook outside Autumn's house on her way to school, the narrator returns it. The satisfaction of helping Abiha, whom he describes as a "person of color," whets his appetite for more acts of anonymous charity with his surplus of cash. Before long, he arouses suspicions from Autumn, the neighborhood children, and the police, setting him on a collision course with the life he left behind. Though a bit slim, Dee's work grapples intriguingly with the narrator's liberal myopia. It stands as a showcase of Dee's masterly prose. (Sept.) Copyright 2022 Publishers Weekly.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

"In Jonathan Dee's elegant and explosive new novel, Sugar Street, an unnamed male narrator has hit the road. Rid of any possible identifiers, his possessions amount to $168,548 in cash stashed in an envelope under his car seat. Vigilantly avoiding security cameras, he drives until he hits a city where his past is unlikely to track him down, and finds a room to rent from a less-than-stable landlady whose need for money outweighs her desire to ask questions. He seems to have escaped his former self. But can he? In a story that moves with swift dark humor and insight, Dee takes us through his narrator's attempt to disavow his former life of privilege and enter a blameless new existence. Having opted out of his material possessions and human connections, thepillars of his new self-simplicity, kindness, above all invisibility-grow shakier as he butts up against the daily lives of his neighbors in their politically divided working-class city. With the suspense of a thriller and the grace of our best literary fiction, Dee unspools the details of our unlikely hero's former life and his developing new one in a drumbeat roll up to a shocking final act. Dee has been compared by the Wall Street Journal to authors such as Jonathan Franzen and Jennifer Egan for his expansive, contemporary, social novels; Sugar Street is a leaner, more personal, but still uncannily timely look at the volatile America of today. A risky, engrossing, and surprisingly visceral story about a white man trying to escape his own troubling footprint and start his life over"--

Review by Publisher Summary 2

Attempting to disavow his former life of privilege and enter a blameless new existence, an unnamed male narrator hits the road with $168,548 in cash stashed in an envelope under the car seat, hitting a city where his past is unlikely to track him down—or so he thinks.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

“This propulsive and furious book is as fun to read as it is relentless and unsparing. Deranged and faltering America, Jonathan Dee has your number.” —Joshua Ferris, author of The Dinner PartyIn Jonathan Dee’s elegant and explosive new novel, Sugar Street, an unnamed male narrator has hit the road. Rid of any possible identifiers, his possessions amount to $168,548 in cash stashed in an envelope under his car seat. Vigilantly avoiding security cameras, he drives until he hits a city where his past is unlikely to track him down, and finds a room to rent from a less-than-stable landlady whose need for money outweighs her desire to ask questions. He seems to have escaped his former self. But can he?In a story that moves with swift dark humor and insight, Dee takes us through his narrator’s attempt to disavow his former life of privilege and enter a blameless new existence. Having opted out of his material possessions and human connections, the pillars of his new self - simplicity, kindness, above all invisibility - grow shakier as he butts up against the daily lives of his neighbors in their politically divided working-class city. With the suspense of a crime thriller and the grace of our best literary fiction, Dee unspools the details of our unlikely hero’s former life and his developing new one in a drumbeat roll up to a shocking final act.Dee has been compared by the Wall Street Journal to authors such as Jonathan Franzen and Jennifer Egan for his expansive, contemporary, social novels; Sugar Street is a leaner, more personal, but still uncannily timely look at the volatile America of today. A risky, engrossing and surprisingly visceral story about a white man trying to escape his own troubling footprint and start his life over.