Summary and book reviews of Abundance by Jakob Guanzon

Abundance

by Jakob Guanzon

Abundance by Jakob Guanzon X
Abundance by Jakob Guanzon
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     Not Yet Rated
  • Published:
    Mar 2021, 328 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Rory L. Aronsky
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About this Book

Book Summary

A wrenching debut about the causes and effects of poverty, as seen by a father and son living in a pickup.

Evicted from their trailer on New Year's Eve, Henry and his son, Junior, have been reduced to living out of a pickup truck. Six months later, things are even more desperate. Henry, barely a year out of prison for pushing opioids, is down to his last pocketful of dollars, and little remains between him and the street. But hope is on the horizon: Today is Junior's birthday, and Henry has a job interview tomorrow.

To celebrate, Henry treats Junior to dinner at McDonald's, followed by a night in a real bed at a discount motel. For a moment, as Junior watches TV and Henry practices for his interview in the bathtub, all seems well. But after Henry has a disastrous altercation in the parking lot and Junior succumbs to a fever, father and son are sent into the night, struggling to hold things together and make it through tomorrow.

In an ingenious structural approach, Jakob Guanzon organizes Abundance by the amount of cash in Henry's pocket. A new chapter starts with each debit and credit, and the novel expands and contracts, revealing the extent to which the quality of our attention is altered by the abundance―or lack thereof―that surrounds us. Set in an America of big-box stores and fast food, this incandescent debut novel trawls the fluorescent aisles of Walmart and the booths of Red Lobster to reveal the inequities and anxieties around work, debt, addiction, incarceration, and health care in America today.

$89.34

It's-a-girl pink. Too festive a color for the soap in a McDonald's men's room. Wrong color, anyway, just like it was eight years ago today. Michelle had been certain that the little boy now waiting outside for Henry would be a girl. So certain that she'd handed Henry a pink-ribboned cigar, right before lugging herself out of the truck and onto a stretcher.

Henry's thoughts scroll through a reverse inventory, its sum a taunt. The absentee list of birthday paraphernalia—balloons and streamers, candles and cake, a pile of presents, a pack of friends, a mother—seems to etch itself into the graffitied bathroom mirror. Henry's burned a gallon of gas to drive them three towns east of the boy's elementary school to this McDonald's in particular. Not only for its PlayPlace, but because there's no bus stop out front. No keypad code to access the bathroom. This is one of the nicer locations, even if passing squalor has left a few stains in here. Mirror all carved up with ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Guanzon understands that the reader is not going to stay with this novel for long if they're constantly beaten over the head with hopelessness and darkness. He tempers the continual bleakness with Henry's poetic insight. For all these vividly alive descriptions and so many others, one can imagine hundreds more in notebooks or computer files that didn't make the cut, but may well find their way into future novels. Whatever Guanzon writes next will undoubtedly build upon the power he has established here...continued

Full Review Members Only (796 words).

(Reviewed by Rory L. Aronsky).

Media Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
An impressive debut...The novel's structure works well to track the legacy and persistence of bad choices and how they whittle down options in lives that didn't have many to start with. Guanzon tends to overwrite, but he can be eloquent regarding Henry's hard, hungry struggle...An imperfect but compelling picture of poverty, desperation, and pain.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Guanzon debuts with a harrowing story of a man's desperation and unyielding love for his son...Guanzon's descriptions of grinding poverty are visceral...and Henry's attempts to fend off relentless adversity for the sake of his son are heartbreaking. This one hits hard.

Author Blurb Mia Alvar, author of In This Country
A quest, a page-turner, and above all a love story, Abundance lays bare one father's brutal, tender hustle to care for his son in a winner-take-all world.

Author Blurb Gina Apostol, author of Insurrecto
Jakob Guanzon looks unflinchingly at our society's underbelly, the intolerable despair that we tolerate, in this powerful debut: a wrenching book our times demand.

Author Blurb Samantha Hunt, author of The Dark Dark
An unforgettable accounting of family, fever, and the fortunes of our strip mall society.

Author Blurb Lysley Tenorio, author of The Son of Good Fortune
To read Abundance is to understand America in ways both shockingly new and startlingly familiar, and contemporary American fiction is lucky to add this book to its shelves.

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Beyond the Book

The Founding of Home Depot

As he passes the lumber and rounds into a lane full of bagged cement, the logic behind the division of inventory dawns on him. The contractors' half of the store holds all the fundamental elements for building a home, all of which later get concealed by the ornaments for sale on the other side, all the paints, light fixtures, moldings, carpets.

—Henry, inside a Home Depot in Abundance

In 1978, Handy Dan Home Improvement's president and chairman of the board Bernie Marcus and CFO Arthur Blank were fired by the chain's new ownership. Not the kind to brood too long, they soon came up with a business plan to improve upon what Handy Dan offered to customers. 30,000 to 40,000 square feet for selling products? Child's play. How about a ...

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