Wayward by Dana Spiotta review – midlife madness in a mad America | Fiction


It’s 2017 and Sam, a middle-class, perimenopausal wife and mother living in Syracuse, NY, is maddened by America. Who wouldn’t be? The US is both terrifying and electrifying in its inventiveness. In this, her fifth novel, Dana Spiotta is prepared to itemise her crazy country’s collapse. If her data collection effort ultimately becomes an exercise in passivity, there are a few good “Whoa!” moments along the way.

This is the first year of Donald Trump’s destabilising presidency. Innocence has been defiled. Unarmed Black teenagers are getting shot in the back by cops, don’t-mess-with-me gun ownership is the prevailing ideal, and everybody’s a tattletale. At the state fair, which previously seemed innocuous to Sam, even charming, she now encounters T-shirts for sale that say things like “LGBT (Liberty, Guns, Beer, Trump)”. Other slogans attack the liberally minded, now…

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