The Land of Steady Habits

The title of Ted Thompson's debut novel, The Land of Steady Habits, is a retro nickname for Connecticut and also a description of Anders Hill's pre-retirement and pre-separation life: decades of train commuting to a Wall Street job that financed the family's "charming" Georgian Colonial, his sons' "impressive degrees" and his wife's "extravagant" empty-nester kitchen renovation. Anders, a southern runaway who blue-collared his way through Bowdoin and once dreamed of manning a fire tower, has run out of enthusiasm for the WASP dream.

At first, Anders revels in his escape from the steady life, but the exhilaration of freedom is soon dampened by aimlessness, and his situation becomes unpleasantly unsteady after he learns of a major flaw in his financial projections. His decision to resolve the dilemma by admitting his mistake to his wife comes undone when she gushes "that Anders may have been right all along, that the divorce was what was best for both of them." Still in denial that what he discarded is irretrievable, Anders attends a holiday party hosted by her friends and, shocked by something he sees there, makes an error of judgment that will reverberate through all of their lives.

The prose in The Land of Steady Habits is confident, impeccably tailored and underwritten with wise humor. Thompson uses inner monologue and flashback to contextualize character and he provides ample swaths of dialogue with young people to balance the old-dude rants. Although one late tragicomic scene almost tips into insensitivity, its tone, and the novel, are redeemed by Anders Hill's breathtaking honesty. --Holloway McCandless, blogger at Litagogo: A Guide to Free Literary Podcasts

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