To avoid hanging on the coattails of the commercialism that is Christmas
in America, author John Kenney opted for the excitement of Super Bowl
and careful consideration of real readers who hold on to their
independent booksellers' giftcards they received to find the new hot,
heavily promoted THING that is his debut novel, Truth in Advertising. (Well, it could be true.)
Meet Finbar Dolan and the hilarious, bittersweet story of a
television advertising writer who finds himself time and again caught up
in the fictions of his life, finding them more comforting than
reality. Boston Irish Catholic and the youngest of four siblings whose
father left when Fin was twelve years old and whose mother dies three
years later in a self-inflicted car crash, Finbar Dolan now lives alone
in a very modern condo in a trendy NYC neighborhood after breaking off
Fin broke the engagement almost one year ago, because he realized that he liked the idea of making his fiancee happy, not the idea of getting married. He is hanging on to two airplane tickets to anywhere in the world, but hasn't made up his mind how to use them.
is hanging on also to a job at an ad agency that used to be old-school:
three-hour with three-martinis lunch and the budgets for film production
were non-existent, meaning there were no maximums, not that there were
no funds at all. Now, due to unsustainability of that business model,
the agency is transforming and Fin doesn't know if he can stay, but
there's no place else he can go and his partner Ian and their
assistant Phoebe are more family to him than his brothers and sister.
His real family is now intruding on this current reality when his eldest brother calls to tell Fin that their father is dying and no way was any of the Dolan kids going to visit him in the hospital.
After one postponement after another, due entirely to Fin's attempt to do the right thing in his new business modelled ad agency, his attempt to go to Mexico (alone) for Christmas is foiled by bad weather, bad scheduling and bad karma. Fate calls as Fin's eyes wander the Departures monitor and sees that the only plane leaving is destined for Boston, and he becomes the child who sees his father after a twenty-five year estrangement.
The scene of the four siblings finally getting together for lunch before the reading of the will is classic Irish-American. And, for awhile, the reader thinks that the elder Dolan's death might transform the family into something else -- more communicative, more openly loving, more self-help-book-material ... But, this is a book that Larry Dunphy, Irish American, liked. What do you think?
There's a tangential story of another family's dynamic. Ye olde ad agency which long ago had gone global with a London-based worldwide public relations firm had been purchased earlier in the [prior] year by a Japanese shipping company. Like many huge Japanese companies, it was still pretty much run by an old but dynamic man who had learned how to make money and yield power. Rumor has it that this business leader had bought the agency to give his son something to do. The son's coming to New York was one reason Fin could not make a fast break to Mexico. They become fast friends based on their mutually acknowledging how that feeling of father-hatred still defines their lives as men. Or, in Fin's point of view, he feels sorry for the fish-out-of-water Keita who can do nothing to please his very-much-present-demanding father while Fin himself deals with fulfilling the dying wish of a very-much-absent-demanding father.