Mr. Peanut [Book Review]

“For underneath this there were unspoken truths, things that had happened or they were waiting for that comprised the very bedrock of their marriage, which went beyond issues and that David boiled down to three:

She was fat.
His book wasn’t done.
And Mr. Peanut”

– p. 82 of Mr. Peanut by Adam Ross –

Title: Mr. Peanut
Author: Adam Ross
Genre: Contemporary/Literary Fiction
ISBN: 030727070X
Pages: 352
Year: 2010
Publisher: Knopf
Source: Library
Rating: 4.5/5

Mr. Peanut begins with David Pepin, recently accused of murdering his wife with a peanut – a food which is fatal to her. The two detectives on the case, Ward Hastroll and Sam Sheppard are forced to look to their own marriages while investigating the alleged crime. What unfolds is a novel about the dark side of marriage.

And when I say dark, I mean it. There is Alice Pepin who can’t get past her size, her depression, and the losses they’ve suffered.  There is Ward Hastroll’s wife, Hannah, who hasn’t left her bed in 5 months and just keeps saying Ward doesn’t understand. And then there is Sam and Marilyn Sheppard – a couple that actually existed (like, in real life) until a pregnant Marilyn was murdered and Sam was assumed to be the killer.

The nonlinear story weaves together in an increasingly complex way. I’m not sure I’m actually smart enough to completely “get” this novel. Mr. Peanut is about as straightforward as a Mobius strip or an M.C. Escher painting – two of the very things featured within it.

There is A LOT to discuss about Mr. Peanut. I want to talk about the real Sam Sheppard case and the story as it is envisioned here. I want to talk about the intriguing idea that a tragedy which occurs while we’re traveling is unique and requires extra effort to overcome. I want to talk about the way the novel fits together. But I simply don’t have the room here or the ability to do that on my own.

The story is either brilliant, or Ross has done a very good job of making it appear brilliant. It all might be an illusion. And maybe that’s the point.

I want to recommend Mr. Peanut, but I also want you to be prepared for it. This is not a cozy bedtime story. Read it, think about, and then find me so we can chat.

A big thanks to Rebecca for making me want to read this book.

PS – Can someone explain Schrodinger’s Cat to me? I don’t understand WHY it’s both alive and dead.

Memorable Passages:

Say her name once, say it over and over again, say it in reverse, and the effect was always the same. At first it was her name and then it was like a heartbeat and then, like a heartbeat, it was something you couldn’t hear. Self-canceling, it was hide-in-plain-sight magic. She had managed to make their life together disappear. p. 67

But the middle, David wrote, is long and hard.
He meant his book and he meant his marriage. At some point his book had become his marriage, or consumed his marriage. Or else his marriage had consumed the book. p. 270

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