In Eli Gottlieb's new novel, Now You See Him, a man loses his childhood friend in the most violent of ways. But the death doesn't tip his world upside down nearly as much as the other losses he experiences.
Rob Castor is a writer stalled by writer's block. Then his girlfriend cheats on him, and he goes off the deep end.
Making matters worse, now Rob and Nick Framingham, once childhood friends, are estranged. Summertimes with Rob and Rob's sister Belinda were among Nick's happiest memories.
Over the years, Belinda drifts in and out of Nick's life. Rob becomes famous; Nick gets married. But now Nick's marriage, always fragile, begins to teeter. Nick discovers that he's in love with another woman, despite feeling oddly distant from her. Somehow, he feels sure, Belinda understands.
And while he's remembering his childhood and his friendship with his neighbors-turned-best-friends, Nick remembers something else. His older brother, Patrick, was their parents' favorite. It was so obvious: The boring old Framinghams -- bland as white bread -- now were trying on new personas as swinging seniors in a retirement community.
Nick is glad they moved a thousand miles away. But then Rob's mother calls. Boozy, she says she has "a secret" for Nick. And it's nothing compared to the secret Nick carries within himself.
Now You See Him is a beautiful book filled with the most lyrical sentences you could hope to read in fiction. The characters are complex, the scenarios are real, the feelings are raw.
But Gottlieb takes for-ev-er to get to the point of this story. Even worse, Nick starts out nice but progresses to not-so-nice -- and for reasons that aren't even presented until the final pages.
If you want to read a novel with gorgeous turns of phrase and don't mind a slow pace, pick up a copy of Now You See Him. If you want an action-packed, engaging novel, though, reading this one is a loss of good time.