In Michael Pulley’s novel When All Else Fails, a wealthy family is thrown into turmoil after the patriarch goes into business with the mob.
Developer Louis Lewis is a new evangelical Christian convert, which has upset his heavy-drinking, socialite wife, Arlette. Meanwhile, their daughter, Michelle, has just started college, where she’s been recruited for the tennis team.
As the story gets underway, Louis is dining with Arlette, Michelle, and her new college friends when he takes a phone call, only to learn that his church has been blown up. Once home, Arlette confronts him with her suspicion that the church bombing is related to a business deal Louis struck with some mob types. She’s right, and they now stand to lose everything.
Michelle is getting to know her new roommate, Clovis, a large, overweight girl with a passion for junk food and her own devout Christian beliefs. Michelle and her roommate soon befriend Abdul “Abe” al-Fiasa, an Algerian tennis player and “closet” Muslim.
Rounding out the picture is David “Back Bay” Norman, a charismatic, successful tennis coach who recognizes in Louis a potential benefactor and, in Arlette, the possibility for some clandestine fun. Then, comes Clovis’ surprise—and chaos ensues.
As the plot unwinds, readers will find a fast-paced, rumpus of a story with entertaining characters like the exuberant Clovis, ever with a bag of chips at hand, and the unfortunately named Louis Lewis. The novel is peppered with quick-witted, wry dialogue. For example, Arlette says to Louis. “I suppose you’re going to tell me [Christianity is] better than sex.” When Louis says the two “are hardly comparable,” Arlette persists: “So, if you were on a desert island, would you rather hump me or go hump your Bible?” While the conflicts and characters can be stereotypical and clichéd, the comic tone diminishes the issues.
With its ongoing twists, snappy conversations and amusing characters, this novel should be enjoyed by a wide audience.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.