Thanks for the Trouble - Tommy Wallach
Parker Santé hasn’t spoken a word in five years. While his classmates plan for bright futures, he skips school to hang out in hotels, killing time by watching the guests. But when he meets a silver-haired girl named Zelda Toth, a girl who claims to be quite a bit older than she looks, he’ll discover there just might be a few things left worth living for.
I really enjoyed We All Looked Up, but I think I like Thanks for the Trouble even more! This is such a quick, charming story, but one with a lot of depth and some great philosophical and existential pondering. Parker meets Zelda, and suddenly he's a changed person. As he and Zelda get to know each other, Parker begins to realize that life may not be as pointless as he had begun to believe, and Zelda begins to question her (im)mortality and her desire to jump off the Golden Gate bridge. In many ways, this novel actually makes me think of Simone de Beauvoir's perhaps lesser know novel, All Men are Mortal, an examination of life through the lens of (im)possibilities related to immortality.
Wallach's second novel is much more spare than his first, but I believe it is also tighter and more emotionally transformative, using character development over the course of three short days to explore nuanced existential questions about history, life, death, and the power (and limitations) of love. Zelda's ability to connect with Parker throughout the three days in which the novel takes place is funny, important, and sad, depending on the moment in question. Parker is a complicated character, and one whose struggle is not easily and simply "fixed" by the end of the book (which I love!)
Written as an overly lengthy college essay on the most important moment in his life, Thanks for the Trouble not only requires readers to question the story, but also the writing of the story itself, and the truth and meaning behind Parker's friendship with Zelda. Though the form of the narrative isn't new, the story within is quite compelling and enjoyable, and it presents a challenge to its readers to rethink what life is all about.