Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
The story of Prose's (Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932) latest novel is the story of Mister Monkey, a regrettable children's musical, itself based on the unlikely success of a (fictional) novel written several decades earlier by a Vietnam vet named Ray and starring a monkey "rescued" from the jungles of Africa to live a domestic life with a human family. That the musical production is terrible is the one thing on which all the characters agree. Margot, the bitter leading lady, who was once a promising young actress and is now questioning her choices; Adam, its problem-child star in a gorilla suit whom all adults want to punish or medicate; Mario, a lifelong waiter in the audience who takes a shine to Margot: everyone knows the story, its premise, and its songs are awful. Each chapter relays the perspective of a different character, including the play's actors and more tangential people. In one section, an aging gentleman takes his grandson to the play, trying to forge a deeper relationship with him in the face of his own ailing health and mounting isolation. In another chapter, that same boy's kindergarten teacher confronts the depths of her loneliness during a very bad date at an Italian restaurant in Brooklyn, where the waiter happens to be Mario. As absorbing and three-dimensional as each character is, the development of the actual novel feels awkwardly formulaic, and the strangeness of the play itself (for instance, Margot plays the monkey's lawyer in a rainbow wig) is stilted, despite the genuine intrigue of each scene in the novel. (Oct.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
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