Author: Stuart Nadler
Wise Men, fecund and fertile in voice and character, erupts within a profundity of language, a manner of being that is profound. A father and son descend into an emotional and spiritual desert as the story pivots around race, wealth and deceit. Arthur is lava, hot, boiling, and amoral in his quest for money. Hilly is Pompeii, burnt into the shadow of his father, frozen in place. A not to miss novel soon to win awards, I am sure.
1947. Arthur Wise is a brilliant, poor, aspiring lawyer, sitting in hospitals trying to gather victims who are willing to sue. He and his family, wife Ruthie, son Hilton (called Hilly) live in blue collar New Haven, CT.
A small, newly built jet owned by Boston Airlines crashes near Narragansett Bay, RI. Arthur, having an acquaintance of an acquaintance on the plane, hustles. All 60 people are dead, including 15 children. Attorney Wise signs on to represent a class action suit with 10 of the affected families. For Arthur has inside knowledge that the plane’s engines were damaged and the airline knowingly flew it. More families sign on, and Arthur’s career skyrockets when he win the case against an airline. He becomes one of the wealthiest and most successful attorneys in the US, as he continues with his partner Robert to sue airlines for lives lost.
The family moves to Manhattan so Arthur can pursue his cases more easily. Hilly is devastated. And then the family moves on to Bluepoint to reflect Arthur’s wealth and success. “Bluepoint was a town on the far edge of the flexed arm of Cape Cod, a sanded dot on the map between Wellfleet and Truro.” The house is on the ocean, and comes with a Black caretaker, Lem Dawson. Hilly, lonely and angry at the world, befriends Lem, to his father’s disgust. To Arthur Blacks do not exist on the spectrum of human.
As Hilly cannot understand his father’s prejudice in the 1950’s elitism of wealth, Arthur’s disgust and anger at this son cannot be hidden. When Hilly falls in love with seventeen year old Savannah, Lem’s niece, Hilly starts a spiral that includes his father, Robert his partner, and the death of Lem.
Convoluted, immeasurably real, Hilly’s ambivalence, Arthur’s Jewish insecurities, Ruthie’s invisibility and the hold that Savannah holds on Hilly determines the family secrets that Hilly writes about to his grandson after his father’s death. Hilly wants the truth to be known and he discovers it as he writes his version of what happened that year in order to process his complex relationship with his father.
A Southern tale both gothic and current, Nadler captures the 1950’s and throws it at us within the complexities of a family both flawed and secretive.
Brilliant in many places, reminiscent of Harper Lee, Peter Taylor, and the Southern flavor of Anne River Siddons, Nadler is his own man. A combustion of ethos, greed and father and son rivalry, Nadler nails the
Wise Men: A Novel hits the bookshelves next week. Pre-order it at Amazon.com NOW.
Ratings are based on a 5-star scale
Review by Broad “A” – Ava
We received a copy of this title for our book review. All opinions are our own.