Frank Shaw is a man who specializes in the fine print of life, but after surviving a car accident that left him without his memories but still in the midst of his own, rather complicated life, and grasping to recall the terms and conditions of his own existence. This may sound like the setup for a tale of high drama, but in truth, this debut novel from Robert Glancy is quite the opposite. “Terms & Conditions” (published on April 22) is a cutting comedy that dares to examine the lingering effects of choices that once felt right, but have long since gone wrong, playing by the rules and the daring it takes to pursue second chances.
Readers first come to know Frank as a man lost in his own life, but as he begins to regain his memories they are treated to revelations that change their perspective on Frank and everyone around him. Amnesiatic Frank has been told that he was fine before his accident, if a bit stressed. In particular, his wife, Alice, and his older brother slash boss, Oscar, are especially keen on telling Frank just how alright he was and how he should focus on moving forward. If this seems encouraging and caring on their part it’s meant to, but as Frank soon discovers (and we do too) these actions are really taken in self-interest. In fact, Frank hates his brother––for a litany of reasons better read than explained––and has come to find that is wife is world’s away from the woman he fell in love with and married, but the pair of them would rather him not recall those details.
As the pages fly by Glancy treats us to little reveal after little reveal, that, when combined, paint a quirky tale that holds plenty of appeal for everyone who has experienced a moment of quiet desperation when shackled to their desk at the office. Perhaps even more enjoyable than the idea of a personal coup d’etat are the asterisks that pepper Frank’s narrative revealing a biting, at times bitter and ultimately humorous insights into his deepest thoughts and most desperate desires. He may never carry any of these things out, but we get to enjoy the day dream with him, and even if he wasn’t an exceedingly likable chap, that alone would place us irrevocably on his side.
You’ll find now explosions nor dare to be great moments in “Terms & Conditions”, instead it delights in the quiet moments that exist in all of our lives. Those who heed the oft-repeated wisdom of taking pleasure in the little things and dutifully pull for the underdog will find that Glancy’s latest is quite to their liking.
Length: 272 pages
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Date: April 22, 2014