Thursday, April 19, 2018

Literally the Best Reviews: The Transition

The Transition - Luke Kennard
Farrar, Straus & Giroux
336 Pages

When I finished this book late last night (or early this morning depending on your definition of your day), I immediately thought to myself, “What the heck did I just read?” It’s not very often than I write a book review so soon after finishing a book. Most of the time, I give the book a day or two to stew around in my head so I can break it down. This one, however, had me a bit flummoxed, and I knew I had to write this as soon as I got up this morning.

The Transition by Luke Kennard is a quirky book that sometimes is hard to follow, especially in flashback scenes.That doesn’t mean that this is a bad book. Any book that keeps you wondering what’s going on for its entirety is most definitely not a bad book. I did finish the book scratching my head what exactly happened, and there were several passages that I had to read over again.

The summary on the inside cover of the book reads like a self-help pamphlet for a New Age retreat where all your troubles will melt away. There’s a hint of cult undertones with it. “Do you or your partner spend more than you earn? Have your credit card debts evolved into collection letters? You are not alone. We know. We can help.” That opening will suck you right in. Where can this novel go with this concept.

The Transition is a program where the couple spends six months completely embedded with another couple who already completed the program and can guide them on the path back to the straight and narrow. It’s advertised that at the end of the six months, you will have completely re-evaluated your position in life and are ready to step forward with a new outlook on life. Of course, all your paychecks are directly deposited into an escrow for The Transition, and any future business ventures pay a percentage back to the program forever.

Karl Temperley has a seemingly happy marriage with Genevieve. They are living the “DINK” life of dual incomes and no kids. However, it seems that there’s never any money left by the end of the month there’s no money left and the credit card debt continues to grow. Desperate after maxing out a series of card, Karl reaches out to former customers to see if there is any work that could be turned his way. Unfortunately, the job he takes ends up being a skimming front, of which he is unaware. Still, he is indicted and faces fifteen months in prison.

This is when The Transition steps in. I lieu of going to prison, Karl and Genevieve will spend six months sharing a house with Stu and Janna, their mentors with The Transition. It seems straight forward, with Karl and Genevieve boarding in one of the rooms. However, Karl begins to have doubts immediately. He questions exactly what’s going on with the whole program and elusively looks for the answers to his questions.

In his quest, he ends up in the doghouse with The Transition as he meets a series of people who may or may not be working with the firm. The alliances are never really worked out, adding to the overall mystery of the novel. By the end, the allure of The Transition is tarnished amid snippets of leaked information. Where does that leave Karl and Genevieve?

Throughout the entirety of this book, each new piece of information makes not only Karl second guess everything, it also make the reader second guess his or her handle on the storyline. This book is an attempt to show the futility of grooming humanity into a specific set of norms. Who defines those norms? And despite the best efforts of those groups to pigeonhole humanity into various round holes, humanity simply is too human. They will do anything to survive.

As I said at the beginning, this is a very odd book, but in a good way. The reader ends up with just as many questions at the end, if not more. The way I read it, it is a book that deeply explores the base of human nature. You just don’t realize it until the end just as Karl doesn’t realize it. Once I came to that conclusion, I felt much better about this book. It’s a thinking book. You can’t take everything at face value. The subtlety is ingenious. Luke Kennard wrote an excellent book.

Craig Bacon likes books that make him question everything he thought he had figured out.