Reviewed by Frank Pizzoli
Traverse the gloom of corporate life and the pressures of the daily grind in this humorous novel of a game-show hopeful
Is That Your Final Answer? opens at the dawn of the 21st century. America has been enjoying record-breaking market growth and a federal budget with surpluses, but “not all boats [are] moving in concert with the rising tide.”
In an engaging opening chapter, mid-thirties finance and sales professional Greg Rafferty struggles with an internal tug-of-war between his need to feel optimistic about his life and, as he says, remembering “the exact instant when suicide seemed like a viable option.”
Greg is trying to navigate accident-clogged freeways in greater Los Angeles at the end of a bad week, a bad last day of that week, ending with a bad meeting at the end of the last day. He fears he’s about to get fired over a seemingly unsolvable business accounting snafu.
Greg’s also realizing that he needs to deal with his romantic relationship. About a month before his day from hell, his girlfriend of two years, Courtney, a pharmaceutical sales rep, advises him she missed her period, further complicating his life and turning it into what feels like a roller coaster of approaching chaos. Greg doesn’t feel ready to start a family. And how would their parents react to the news? All Greg wants is to find a couple of cold beers hidden in his refrigerator.
As Greg’s life continues speeding toward financial uncertainty, he does what any freethinking American would do—he comes up with a cockamamie scheme to make fast cash on the nation’s most popular game show.
Gibbons masterfully weaves the tumult of Greg’s professional and personal life into the foundation on which the novel rests. In contrast to Greg’s darker challenges, Gibbons offers a source of comic relief, particularly in his characters. Reminiscent of Janet Evanovich, the sideline characters move in and out of the story to give us exactly the laughs we’re looking for, like Greg’s next-door neighbor Junior, a 20-something surfer lifeguard, a southern California cliché, and a welcome humorous presence in Greg’s narrative.
This story unfolds in a number of entertaining ways, but there are two aspects that set it apart. One is the cutthroat realities of corporate life. The other is Greg’s quick sense of humor displayed with his out-loud and silent reactions to what the moment presents. There’s plenty of humor here, which is exactly what I’m hoping for in a novel like this. Consider, however, that this time period is coming in pre-MeToo and before the external scrutiny of mansplaining, so the corporate life comes with some cringes too.
Another added attraction is each chapter’s epigraph, beginning with pithy words from Samuel Goldwyn, George Bernard Shaw, George Harrison, Evander Holyfield,
Alexander Pope. There’s someone and something for every taste and circumstance, and they add a nice introduction to each chapter about to unfold.
Gibbons does an excellent job of chronicling the funny and challenging aspects of
everyday life. We’re constantly wondering how Greg is going to uncomplicate his
adventure, and we continue only with the truth of the subtitle in our hopes of his
improvement: Sometimes, ya just gotta believe.
Genre: General Fiction / Humor & Satire
Print Length: 266 pages
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