Misery never sounded as good as it does in this compelling triumph of narrative voice.
Reading David Gates' first novel Jernigan is a lot like listening to your most charming alcoholic friend. Told in a colloquial style by the novel's namesake Peter Jernigan, the book traces his unraveling following the death of his wife. First Jernigan takes up with his teenage son's girlfriend's mother. Then he loses his job and moves in with her, living off child support paychecks from her ex-husband. And as he boozes through his days while considering things like Ogden Nash's use of the word "to" in an introduction to a P.G. Wodehouse book, he shifts between captivating witticisms and belligerence, insightful reflection and obliviousness. By the novel's end, we're left with a clear and startling portrait of a complicated man who has deluded himself into believing that he's trying his best while failing thoroughly. Jernigan is a masterful feat of character realization that manages to blend misery with a voice so compelling and real that Jernigan's failures become not merely unfortunate but tragic.