Robert Boswell

Tumbledown - in paperback

Oprah Book of the Week

Oprah Book of the Week: Tumbledown

When most of us think of today's great American novel, we think of Franzen's Freedom or Egan's A Visit from the Goon Squad—sprawling stories that comment on contemporary society as we live it. Tumbledown, Robert Boswell's latest, is just such a book—and one you'll stay up until 3 a.m. reading. Over the course of a few weeks, James Candler, a 30-something therapist is about to lose everything including his job at the treatment center, his fiancée and his underwater house in the suburbs. Whether he actually loses it all becomes less important as the lives of his teenage patients intertwine with his. He punches out a trucker preying on the mentally disabled Karly, but can't quite get schizophrenic Mick on his meds or keep track of Maura, the brilliant, bitter depressive who sneaks out of her room at night. This look at life inside a for-profit mental health facility will make you laugh out loud, then sucker-punch you straight to sorrow, when—as Candler's best friend puts it—you begin to think "how circumstances could outweigh character." In lesser hands, the book would freefall into the bleak. But Boswell is a writer who can see the humanity, and yes, even beauty in just about anything, including a lone man sitting at a late-night diner, holding "a frosted doughnut to his nose as if it were a flower."                                     — Leigh Newman