The Antagonist: Book summary and reviews of The Antagonist by Lynn Coady

The Antagonist

By Lynn Coady

The Antagonist
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  • Published in USA  Jan 2013,
    304 pages.

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Book Summary

A piercing epistolary novel, The Antagonist explores, with wit and compassion, how the impressions of others shape, pervert, and flummox both our perceptions of ourselves and our very nature.

Gordon Rankin Jr., aka "Rank," thinks of himself as "King Midas in reverse" - and indeed misfortune seems to follow him at every turn. Against his will and his nature, he has long been considered - given his enormous size and strength - a goon and enforcer by his classmates, by his hockey coaches, and, not least, by his "tiny, angry" father. He gamely lives up to their expectations, until a vicious twist of fate forces him to flee underground. Now pushing forty, he discovers that an old, trusted friend from his college days has published a novel that borrows freely from the traumatic events of Rank's own life. Outraged by this betrayal and feeling cruelly misrepresented, he bashes out his own version of his story in a barrage of e-mails to the novelist that range from funny to furious to heartbreaking.

With The Antagonist, Lynn Coady demonstrates all of the gifts that have made her one of Canada's most respected young writers. Here she gives us an astonishing story of sons and fathers and mothers, of the rewards and betrayals of male friendship, and a large-spirited, hilarious, and exhilarating portrait of a man tearing his life apart in order to put himself back together.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"A genuinely fascinating character [whose] emails evolve from clumsy rages to thoughtful, measured ruminations on crucial events in his life….But it is Coady's ability to realistically portray his teens and university years and empathetically conduct his search for self that makes The Antagonist more than just entertainment." - Booklist

"Coady expertly renders a man who's compelled to address his past but not entirely ready to look in the mirror [and her novel] is a caution to tread carefully...Smartly tuned and as unsettling as it intends to be." - Kirkus

"...the plot often meanders and the handling of narrative perspectives creates formal questions that are never answered. (At times, a third-person "omnipotent narrator," either the author or someone else with access and hindsight, takes over Rank's first-person duties.) Still, the pathos and humor brought to a challenging life story will appeal to many readers." - Publishers Weekly

"Only a writer as wonderfully gifted as Lynn Coady could elicit such extraordinary sympathy for a man as full of self-destructive rage as Rank, her main character. You won't soon forget either him or this haunting novel." - Richard Russo

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Lynn Coady is an award-winning writer, editor, and journalist. She was born on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia and now lives in Edmonton, Alberta. She is the author of Mean Boy, Play the Monster BlindSaints of Big Harbour, and Strange Heaven.

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