Yes, this story involves a lawyer!
Stuart Nadler orchestrates an extremely American picture with his debut novel Wise Men. Let’s see, we have themes of race, class, betrayal, fame, loyalty, corruption… I could go on but these you already know are notions deeply rooted in our literary history. The story is mainly centered around a fictitious affluent town called Bluepoint in Cape Cod from the early 1950s through general present-day (there are signs of cellphones towards the end of the novel), with some generous time spent in Boston and the mid-West in between.
We first follow teenaged and naive Hilly Wise navigate feelings for his first love Savannah, the refreshingly witty niece of his black housekeeper. Things obviously don’t go well as we then follow Hilly as a tortured and regretful young man after a hasty mistake that sets off a domino effect of dire consequences. It’s a multigenerational family saga that continues on until Hilly is a much older man—still though, not as wise as he should be, even at that point!—with one last secret to learn from his stone-cold corrupt, famous, and wealthy-as-fuck lawyer father. Needless to say, there’s a lot that goes on in the story.
I found Wise Men to be thoroughly enjoyable—I chugged it, in fact—and it’s one of the more impressive books I’ve read from a first-time novelist. The storylines are familiar territory (Atonement immediately comes to mind with the many parallels, as does To Kill A Mockingbird) but that didn’t bother me because I couldn’t get over the amount of thoughtful layers and story-planning Nadler had to map out. It’s a frustrating melodrama where all problems would be solved if only the characters were honest with each other but of course it wouldn’t make for as compelling an epic story. (Literary anxiety is fun, people!). Wise Men is more substantial than your typical beach read and it’s a great alternative to any old chick-lit, but it’s not to say there’s much more up Stuart Nadler’s sleeve. I look forward to whatever he serves up next.