In a time when many 12-year-olds have already mapped out their futures, 28-year-old Dwight Wilmer-ding is standing still: he's got a going-nowhere job and a going-nowhere relationship with a young woman who will eventually agree to a marriage (not to Dwight) arranged by her parents; his lease is about to expire and the friends from prep school he shares it with all have their own plans. He's desperate to have something to boast about at his coming 10-year reunion beyond not having gone bald. So when one of his roommates, a medical student, convinces Dwight that he suffers from abulia, the loss of [the] ability to make decisions and that he has access to a brand-new drug Dwight can use to treat it, Dwight actually makes a decision and takes it, having been warned that it could take up to two weeks before it's effective. After his job comes to a faster-than-expected end, Dwight gets an e-mail from Natasha, a girl he had a crush on in prep school, inviting him to visit her in Ecuador. He goes to his father in the hope of getting a trip there underwritten. He gets the money, but also some unexpected advice. The great hope, his father tells him, is eventually to find a delusion that will outlast your life. When Natasha disappears right after his arrival in Ecuador, Dwight goes off exploring with her roommate Brigid, an Argentinean-Belgian student who has given up on her thesis. As time passes, he credits the medication with his increasingly positive mood and the fact that he wakes each morning with this birthday-boy or Christmas Day eagerness not always felt by the full-grown even when on vacation. There are big surprises in store for both Dwight and the reader in this unusual coming-of-age story. Benjamin Kunkel, the founding editor of n+1 magazine, has a fresh voice, and this is a confident first novel. I look forward to his second.
Joanne Collings writes from Washington, D.C.