Too Good to Be True, by Benjamin Anastas

This is a memoir of a youngish writer whose pregnant bride leaves him when she can’t get over his pre-wedding admission that he cheated on her; who quits his day job to write full time, even though he owes the IRS, a list of credit card companies, his accountant, his therapist, Sallie Mae, and numerous others; who continues to get expensive haircuts and enjoy cab rides, even though he fails to pay his portion of the rent, and even though he scrounges for loose change in closets and drawers so that he can buy his young son yogurt and Pirate’s Booty when he visits. This is a writer about whom it is hard to feel sorry.

 And yet you root for him to get over his feelings of superiority, his writer’s block, and his piles of bills because it’s clear he loves both his new girlfriend and his young son, and because he is funny. Humor and hope intermingle with frustration and failure in this compelling slim volume that can be read at one sitting, possibly as a little bit of Schadenfreude creeps in.

 Not long before this sad tale begins, Anastas was the author of two well-regarded novels, “An Underachiever’s Diary” and “The Faithful Narrative of a Pastor’s Disappearance.” About the time his wife exits (in the arms of a rival writer), his publisher loses interest in him as well. And he is broke and panicky. But—to quote The New York Times book review—“under the panic lies a remorseful heart (and) a steady determination to become a better person.”

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