I had modest expectations for this book; it's a collection of short stories of the genre that thinks it isn't a genre, literary fiction. Very often, literary fiction seems to operate on the premise that because the world is familiar and real, the behavior of the people doesn't have to make sense.
The behavior of Eisenberg's characters does make sense, not by being sane and reasonable, but by reflecting real human emotions, motivations, desires, fears, insecurities. The first story is a nine-year-old boy, writing reviews of restaurants and other dining experiences that are really accounts of episodes in his emotional progress through the experience of learning to be the child of a single mother after his parents' divorce. He's working out what his relationship is with his mother, what it means to be best friends with Matthew, another child of a broken home, and whether or not his father was really "there," even before he left for Louisiana and married another woman.
Other stories involve a lot of adolescent angst, as a high school boy and his girlfriend, who is away at dance camp, exchange email over the course of the summer, or adult angst as a man, trying to become a writer while working temp jobs, finds himself pouring out his grief over his divorce into his fiction rather more explicitly than he intends. Yet another is a series of vignettes,in Pompeii, the day before Vesuvius erupts.
And the stories are funny. Not in a laugh out loud way, but, in a painful giggle escaping as the reader (or at least this reader) recognizes all too familiar emotions, even if the details of the experience are different.
Altogether, this is a delightful book. Recommended.
I received a free audio edition of this book from Audible, in exchange for an honest review.