Summary and book reviews of Mr. Peanut by Adam Ross

Mr. Peanut

By Adam Ross

Mr. Peanut
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  • Hardcover: Jun 2010,
    352 pages.
    Paperback: Apr 2011,
    352 pages.

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Book Summary

David Pepin has been in love with his wife, Alice, since the moment they met in a university seminar on Alfred Hitchcock. After thirteen years of marriage, he still can’t imagine a remotely happy life without her—yet he obsessively contemplates her demise. Soon she is dead, and David is both deeply distraught and the prime suspect.

The detectives investigating Alice’s suspicious death have plenty of personal experience with conjugal enigmas: Ward Hastroll is happily married until his wife inexplicably becomes voluntarily and militantly bedridden; and Sam Sheppard is especially sensitive to the intricacies of marital guilt and innocence, having decades before been convicted and then exonerated of the brutal murder of his wife.

Still, these men are in the business of figuring things out, even as Pepin’s role in Alice’s death grows ever more confounding when they link him to a highly unusual hit man called Mobius. Like the Escher drawings that inspire the computer games David designs for a living, these complex, interlocking dramas are structurally and emotionally intense, subtle, and intriguing; they brilliantly explore the warring impulses of affection and hatred, and pose a host of arresting questions. Is it possible to know anyone fully, completely? Are murder and marriage two sides of the same coin, each endlessly recycling into the other? And what, in the end, is the truth about love?

Mesmerizing, exhilarating, and profoundly moving, Mr. Peanut is a police procedural of the soul, a poignant investigation of the relentlessly mysterious human heart—and a first novel of the highest order.

Excerpt
Mr. Peanut

WHEN DAVID PEPIN FIRST DREAMED of killing his wife, he didn't kill her himself. He dreamed convenient acts of God. At a picnic on the beach, a storm front moved in. David and Alice collected their chairs, blankets, and booze, and when the lightning flashed, David imagined his wife lit up, her skeleton distinctly visible as in a children's cartoon, Alice then collapsing into a smoking pile of ash. He watched her walk quickly across the sand, the tallest object in the wide-open space. She even stopped to observe the piling clouds. "Some storm," she said. He tempted fate by hubris. In his mind he declared: I, David Pepin, am wiser and more knowing than God, and I, David Pepin, know that God shall not, at this very moment, on this very beach, Jones Beach, strike my wife down. God did not. David knew more. And in their van, when the rain came so densely it seemed they were in a car wash, he boasted of his godliness to Alice, asked rhetorically if a penis this large and ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. How do the three different marriages depicted in Mr. Peanut relate to one another? What traits differentiate each marriage?
  2. In our question and answer session with Adam Ross, he expressed his hope that "readers experience a series of recognitions. That they read about each marriage and say, ‘Yes, I've been there.' " What, if anything, struck a chord with you about the relationships in Mr. Peanut?
  3. Are married people capable of change? Does Mr. Peanut answer this question?
  4. Mobius remarks upon "the dual nature of marriage, the proximity of violence and love" (p. 238). Discuss how Mr. Peanut links marriage and violence.
  5. How convincingly does Ross portray deep love alongside the ugly thoughts...
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Reviews

BookBrowse

What Ross does well is to encourage readers to make connections between the three couples' situations by weaving similar details throughout all three stories. His use of description, particularly his sense of place (whether in New York, Hawaii or Ohio) transports readers and allows the setting to contribute to the telling of the story....I waiver between recommending this book and not, but I think that if you take the time to consider it, especially if you have the commitment to read it a second time, there are many interesting conversations to be had.   (Reviewed by Elena Spagnolie).

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Media Reviews
Author Blurb Richard Russo
Mr. Peanut is as ingenious as it is riveting.

Author Blurb Stephen King
The most riveting look at the dark side of marriage since Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?…It induced nightmares, at least in this reader. No mean feat.

Publishers Weekly

It's a unique book—stark and sublime, creepy and fearless—that readers into the darker end of the literary spectrum won't want to miss.

Library Journal

The author has created an absorbing puzzle and handles the writing with skill, but the world inside this novel is fairly bleak and unsavory. Recommended for ambitious readers.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. A Möbius strip of a novel, folding the unsavory anticipation of American Psycho into a domestic drama straight out of Carver-esque America … An intellectual noir novel and an original voice.

Booklist

Starred Review. With its noirish sensibility and eloquent prose, this dark novel depicts marriage as one “long double homicide".

Reader Reviews
Bonnie Brody

Disappointing Read
I read Mr. Peanut and was quite disappointed. The book was disjointed, it seemed to try and go too many places and the ultimate feeling I had was boredom. It is about a man whose wife dies from choking on a peanut. Did he kill her or was it an ...   Read More

R.M. Trilipush

Excellent Debut
Mr. Peanut is definitely worth a read. I enjoyed the Escher-esque plot, the allusions to Hitchcock and Nabokov, and the shout out to Silence of the Lambs. But most of all, I liked the writing. It's hard to find a book these days that is both ...   Read More

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Peanuts and Anaphylaxis

When asked in an interview if there was any particular event that inspired Mr. Peanut, Adam Ross responded that: "In 1995, my father told me the strangest, most suspicious story about my cousin, who had severe peanut allergies and was also morbidly obese. According to her husband, he arrived home to find her sitting at the kitchen table with a plate of peanuts in front of her, and upon seeing him she stuffed a handful into her mouth and then went into anaphyla­tic shock. Her last words to him were, 'Call 911.'"  (read the interview)

It may seem strange that eating something as tiny as a peanut could cause a violent allergic reaction strong enough to kill a person, however, Ross does not exaggerate the severity of&#...

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