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by Iain Levison
Soho , October 2009
304 pages
ISBN: 1569475997

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

How can you have a rewarding and exciting life when you are living in a dump of a town in Pennsylvania? Career opportunities are not looking great for three friends who hang out smoking pot and bewailing their fate. Mitch has a job at an electronics store selling TVs, but he's just been given the boot after hassling with his insipid manager. Doug is a major pothead whose professional arc seems to be aligned with fast-food restaurants. Kevin has the most potential; he has started his own dog walking business. But then there's the matter of his wife, who is a first-class bitch, thriving on making his life miserable.

In the interest of bettering themselves, they come up with a series of endeavors, most of the illegal variety, that will provide them with money and a bright future. Unfortunately, they aren't very good at pulling off the capers that they plan and fail at just about everything that they attempt. The good news is that Levison presents these adventures in an absolutely hilarious way.

There's an undercurrent of sadness to the hilarity, however; after all, we have three men who are systemically ruining their lives in trying to make a score. Levison does a wonderful job of developing characters who are desperate to change their lives, willing to engage in criminal activity, but all the while resisting the impulse to make them malicious or evil. They are the most good-natured and likable potential criminals that you could hope to meet. The dialogue is pitch perfect; the humor is an integral part of the book without turning it into a comic romp.

I loved the book. It had just the right amount of quirkiness and humor blended with the pathos of three wasted lives. The "big job" that is going to change their future doesn't come off as planned, not surprisingly but it does finally help our friends move on from their thwarted lives. The resolution is superb; each of the three characters finds a path to their own happiness in very unexpected ways.

I became a fan of Levison after reading DOG EATS DOG; after enjoying ARMORED CAR so much, I immediately bought SINCE THE LAYOFFS. His skewed vision of life and deadpan humor is right up my alley.

Reviewed by Maddy Van Hertbruggen, November 2009

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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