With a large set of people to get to know in the novel, and all of them compelling, Jonathan Miles delivers his second novel "Want Not" with a great big smile. Funnier than ever the author, acclaimed for his "Dear American Airlines," loves to go off on a tangent and wander along with just his prose as a tiny flashlight in the woods.
We meet New Yorkers Micha and Talmadge who are "freegans" (the off the grid phenomenon and all) in the Big Apple and caress their relationship that consummated at the Burning Man Festival in the desert and now has to work as they effectively squat. Then there is Sara, an ex-widow who lost her husband in the fall of the Twin Towers, but has consequently remarried. The new husband and her daughter develop an interesting dynamic. And lastly there is the linguistic, Elwin who has a derelict marriage and a father with Alzheimer’s. It is just as complex as it sounds with three very different American families - making it a feast.
Miles, from Ohio, has adroitness for funny. He scurries around characters, places and ideas with the purest wit and the novel becomes a lament on mortality. But it’s funny, really funny. The author ventures into waste, and every set of character’s interpretation of detritus. Can it all be a giant waste? Are we a genuine waste? These are questions that accompany this superb read; as they should with a smart novel by someone like Miles.
Like Miles says, ’want’ is what pushes us around, it causes us to marry the wrong person, then to divorce the right person, to eat and throw away what we should be drinking and conserving. ’Want’ is what makes all the errors and fixes them again, it’s ’want’ that lets us have too much, too little, give way too much and take way too much and get muddled with the difference. The characters try to escape the ’want’ and channel a ’want not’ only to befuddle the differences between the two. Are we all the same, in the end? Do we want what we want, because we’re too scared to not want what we want?
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
by Jonathan Miles