Saturday, October 15, 2011

Ed King-David Guterson

Ed King

David Guterson

Knopf, Oct 18 2011, $26.95

ISBN: 9780307271068

In 1962 Seattle, thirtyish actuary Walter Cousins’ wife Lydia suffers a nervous breakdown. He hires teenage English exchange student Diane Burroughs as an au pair to take care of his two kids, four years old Barry and three years old Tina. A week into her employment, he is sleeping with her. Diane becomes pregnant but vanishes with her newborn.

For years afterward, Walter sends child support payments to Diane for a child he has not seen. He remains ignorant to the fact that Diane abandoned her infant. Alice and Dan King adopt Ed; he is raised in a nurturing reformed Jewish family. As a teen Ed gets into a fatal highway incident, but walks away shaken only and has an affair with a high school teacher. He becomes a brilliant mathematician working on the field of search. Diane and Ed meet at the same exhibit she attended years earlier with Walter and his kids. They are attracted to one another even as his firm Pythia becomes mega. However, his genome mapping leads him to much of the truth about who he is not.

This is a brilliant satirical modernization of Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex in which the Gods are computers and fate is avarice fueled by happenchance that brings womanizing Walter, Diane the con artist, and Ed the older woman lover with a Freudian Oedipus Complex together. The three protagonists are not likable individuals yet their human foibles make for a fascinating, often amusing lampooning of contemporary relationships.

Harriet Klausner

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