Executive Times






2008 Book Reviews


Good People by Marcus Sakey








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Some readers of Marcus Sakey’s new novel, Good People, will like Tom and Anna Reed, the protagonists, while others will find them shallow. That may not matter because Sakey does a fine job in setting the scene, the motivation and the characters, and lets the story develop as a way of revealing aspects of our nature that we would prefer to pretend do not exist. Tom and Anna’s greed leads them to place none of us want to go. Here’s an excerpt, from the beginning of Chapter 2, pp. 25-26:


Tom Reed couldn’t sleep for rain and acronyms.

The rain wasn't real. It came from the sound gizmo on Anna's night table. The noise wasn't actually much like rain, more like a hum of static. She said it helped her sleep, and he didn't mind, though it made him smile when she turned it on while real rain fell. Rain from a machine to mask the sound of rain on the windowsill, the same way they had thick curtains to block the daylight and an alarm clock that simulated the sunrise. They'd laughed about it, years ago, how they'd lost the battle against yuppiehood without firing a shot.

But the rain wasn't really the problem. It was the acronyms. TTC. HPT. IUI. D&C. IVF. ICSI.

At first they'd seemed amusing, if a little precious: TTC for trying to conceive, HPT for home pregnancy test. Anna found a whole community online, thousands of women sharing stories on fertility Web sites, posting their most intimate details on message boards, analyzing basal body temperature and cervical mucus con­sistency like oracles peering at tea leaves. The Web sites had made Anna feel better, had provided something it seemed he couldn't. The first acronyms had come from there.

The later ones came from the doctors, and they were neither amusing nor precious. They were cruel and costly. Tom rolled on his side, careful not to disturb her. They used to sleep spooned, the heat of her back nestling his chest, the smell of her hair, the sense that their bodies snapped together like Legos. Sometimes it seemed like a long time ago.

IUI, intrauterine insemination.

He tried to think about work, about the specific, boring mun­danity of it. He pictured his office, eight by ten, drop ceiling, metal modular desk, the slim window through which the mirrored side of the neighboring skyscraper bounced a view of his own back at him. But that led to thoughts of the 9:30 status meeting he was going to miss, of sighs and shaking heads. He tried to guess how many e-mails would be waiting when he made it in.

IVF, in vitro fertilization.

The light that slipped past the curtain glowed faint silver. The clock read 4:12. There weren't many reasons to be awake at 4:12. In his twenties, sure: a Saturday night, he and Anna and the old crew, candles burning, beer gone, Leonard Cohen on the stereo, a last joint circling as people fell asleep against each other on garage-sale furniture. In his twenties, 4:12 made sense.

At thirty-five, though, 4:12 was a moment to sleep through. There was only one reason people his age tended to be awake at 4:12. TWW, two-week wait. Ending today.

Tom and Anna are ordinary, and Good People takes them to extraordinary places. Read it to find out where, why and what happens.


Steve Hopkins, October 20, 2008



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The recommendation rating for this book appeared

 in the November 2008 issue of Executive Times


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