Web-only: A review of ‘Model Home’ by Eric Puchner

Model Home

A Novel

Eric Puchner

Scribner: 360 pp., $25


Eric Puchner mines the same landscape as Rick Moody and many others in American literature: the mind-numbing, striving, denial and greed of suburbia. “Model Home” is set in Southern California in the 1980s. There’s a glare in the book, something you can’t quite look at or into, and plenty of humor (the grim kind). The landscape is relentlessly bereft: mini-malls and gated communities and freeways.

Warren Ziller, a real estate developer (scheister), his wife and three children live in Herradura Estates, an “equestrian village” and they do almost nothing but lie to one another. The whole idea of family comes unraveled in Puchner’s gloved and graceful style. Lyle, the 16-year-old daughter, keeps a hate list; Jonas, the 11-year-old son, wants to be abducted by aliens, so he dresses in orange. Dustin, college age, desperately acts out in a variety of ways, competing with his father for adolescent of the year.

The thicker the lies, the funnier it gets, but underneath is an aquifer of meanness, self-centeredness and racism. It’s a wasteland. Haha.