John Lincoln is a thirtysomething book editor miserably ensconced at Pistakee, a dinky Chicago publisher, where he toils on titles like 37 Rambles Through the Windy City. He longs to flee the Midwest and land in New York, where, he imagines, he’ll work with real writers, brandish success at his patrician East Coast parents, and experience again the glories of the city of his dreams.
He needs a hot bestseller, and finds his salvation in Amy O’Malley, a recent University of Chicago grad who’s worked on the school’s famous sex survey. With Lincoln’s prodding, Amy writes an erotic thriller that draws on her research experience. Her book indeed opens doors for Lincoln—but not in the way he imagined. Meanwhile, Tony Buford, a “professor of happiness studies” at a local college, gently blackmails him into publishing his fantastically mundane poetry.
Reminiscent of Richard Russo at his wittiest, is a comic novel about the hard work of understanding what it is you want.