Monday, October 31, 2022


Author:  Alex McElroy
Publication Information:  Atria Books. 2021. 304 pages.
ISBN:  1982158301 / 978-1982158309

Book Source:  I received this book through NetGalley free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "The men were outside my building."

Favorite Quote:  "Just because you're not sick ... doesn't mean you couldn't be healthier."

Two childhood friends - Sasha and Dyson - open a camp. Read into that - form a cult. The name is The Atmosphere. The members are men. The purpose is to rid the men of their toxic masculinity - define that how you will! "We'll call it The Atmosphere ... The men will be Atmospherics. It's a film term. Another word for extras:  people who provide the atmosphere and stand in the background. What better aspiration for men? To cede power, the spotlight, to let others speak, let the action continue without them."

The book gets more specific. This is about not all men but rather about white men in particular. "Over the past year, more and more me - always white men - had been hording together unprompted to perform mundane social activities. There was no way of telling how a man horde would act once it formed." I find that specificity not needed and shifts the focus to a racial issue rather than the patriarchy that many may understand.

Why? The purpose is entirely self-serving. Dyson is a failed actor. Sasha achieved success as an internet personality specializing in wellness for women. Unfortunately, responsibility for the tragic outcome of an online interaction is laid at Sasha's door. She stands to lose everything. This venture becomes an escape and a way to perhaps salvage her reputation. So, the clearly self-focused goal belies the altruistic purpose of reforming men and society. It make the whole idea harder to buy into.

The ideas of internet influencers, troll, masculine toxicity, and retreats to relearn are clearly picked from today's headlines. There are some truths to be found in this premise. I wanted to like this book for those truths, particularly the influence of social media on so many.

Based on the description, it is intended as satire. For me, the key to satire is the ability to interject enough reality so as to be recognizable and perhaps even relatable. Unfortunately, for me, the book chooses to highlight items in a direction that I find not helpful. Focusing on a gender and a race highlights divides and promotes the extensions of damaging stereotype. In the current divisive and divided atmosphere of our nation, it is, for me, not funny. Clearly, my sense of humor and that of this book lie in two different directions.

Unfortunately, I find neither the characters nor the story engaging.  Likable characters are not a necessity to a great read. However, engaging characters and/or an engaging plot are. Unfortunately, for me, this book holds neither. Having read the entire book, I do not feel like I understand Dyson or Sasha or really care about their outcome. As far as the plot, the book focuses more on the characters and on building the world of the The Atmosphere. It is challenging to follow what happens or why even up until the very end.

Sadly, I find myself walking away from the book, clearly not the reader for it.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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