Firstly, a huge thank you to Faber & Faber for sending me a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.
Publisher: Faber & Faber
Publication Date: 27/07/2021
Length: 352 pages
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
CW: drug use
‘My daddy always told me, if it looks too good to be true – then it probably is.’GoodReads
Bart, Teddy and Cole have been best friends since childhood. Having founded their own small-town construction company, they yearn to build a legacy, something to leave behind to their families. So when Gretchen Connors, a mysterious millionaire lawyer from California, approaches them with a stunning, almost formidable project in the mountains above their town, the three friends convince themselves it’s the job which will secure their future.
But what is Gretchen hiding from them? And why does the build have to be complete by Christmas, a near-impossible deadline? With the lines between ambition and greed more slippery and dangerous than the three friends ever imagined, how far will they push themselves and what will be the cost of their dream?
What struck me the most about this novel was the sense of timelessness surrounding it, which worked wonderfully for this novel as it tackles the brutal reality of the ‘American Dream’ and how it can gradually, and devastatingly, deteriorate into a nightmare.
Butler’s writing felt very reminiscent of Steinbeck, whose books I love, which made the novel entirely captivating to me. In fact, I would regularly forget that this novel is set in modern day America rather than 50s/60s America. Which could lead to quite jarring moments when social media is briefly mentioned. Although this could be jarring, the novel benefited even more from this as it has some really powerful moments where you are reminded that these issues are very much still present and, arguably, worse with how easy it can be to get drugs but not healthcare.
The entire novel revolves around three men who have been best friends since childhood who now own a construction company together. They have been converted to build a luxurious house in the mountains on an incredibly tight deadline. On the surface you might be skeptical of how this can remain interesting and intense for the whole novel and Butler does it so effortlessly. He has crafted incredibly believable characters in Cole, Teddy and Bart as individuals as well as a unit. They all complemented each other really well with their complexities and character development. They are all flawed men in some way and yet you want things to warn one for them in some way, even after some horrifying incidents that adds a whole other tragic layer to this gripping hand.
It isn’t just the men that keep you hooked but it’s the mysterious, and demanding, Gretchen too. Both the reader and the men know very little about her which is just one of the ways she is so compelling. Whilst she appears cold and uncaring for anything other than her home, the brief chapters we get scattered throughout the novel did an amazing job of providing more context for her and yet still preserving some of her mystery.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this novel which highlights how desperate people can become trying to grasp the ‘American Dream’ and how it can quickly turn from an ambition into an obsession.