Meet John Trow

Meet John Trow

4.0 1
by Thomas Dyja

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Steven Armour, a disaffected man in his forties, is at a crossroads: his marriage has fizzled, his career is at a standstill, and he is obsessed by the man he might have become if only he had married the woman who still haunts him. But life takes an unexpected turn for Steven when, on a whim, he joins a local group of Civil War re-enactors. Assigned to immerse…  See more details below


Steven Armour, a disaffected man in his forties, is at a crossroads: his marriage has fizzled, his career is at a standstill, and he is obsessed by the man he might have become if only he had married the woman who still haunts him. But life takes an unexpected turn for Steven when, on a whim, he joins a local group of Civil War re-enactors. Assigned to immerse himself in the character of Private John Trow, Steven soon finds himself completely identifying with Trow's life and consumed by his passion for a fellow re-enactor, Polly Kellogg. Deft and often absurdly comical, Meet John Trow is the haunting tale of a man who risks losing his future to satisfy the temptations of the past.

Author Biography: Thomas Dyja is the author of Play for a Kingdom, which was named one of the best first novels of 1998 by Library Journal.

Editorial Reviews editor

The Barnes & Noble Review
Meet John Trow, Thomas Dyja's second novel after the Civil War historical Play for a Kingdom, is proof that a skilled writer can make any topic interesting. Its subject matter -- the world of Civil War reenactors -- seems like fodder for satire and little else. Yet Dyja uses this arcane subculture, populated mostly by middle-aged men who dress up in Union or Confederate uniforms to stage encores of famous 19th-century bloodbaths, to weave a surprisingly effective postmodern ghost story.

The novel's namesake is a long-dead Connecticut private whom the protagonist, Steven Armour, is assigned to portray. Armour, drawn to reenacting on a whim, is one of postmillennial fiction's favorite stock characters: a 40-year-old paper pusher in the throes of a midlife crisis. Soon the spirit of John Trow hijacks his tepid life, lending him the fortitude to both climb the corporate ladder and become a pillar of strength for his family. But the ghost exacts a price. It pushes Armour into a dalliance with the wife of his ersatz regimental commander, then tries to force him to commit murder. Not surprisingly, gunplay settles the issue during a massive, climactic reenactment of the battle of Cold Harbor.

Just like its main (living) character, Dyja's book becomes more surefooted as it goes along, slowly morphing from depressing domestic drama into supernatural mystery. While the characters may be less finely drawn than those in Play for a Kingdom -- the story of a group of Confederate and Union soldiers who meet for an unlikely series of baseball games while the battle of Spotsylvania rages around them -- Dyja manages to weave a haunting and dramatic tale out of some decidedly undramatic elements. (Sam Stall)

Seattle Times
A fine novel that draws you in slowly, then grips you tightly and holds you to its surprising ending.
Boston Herald
Part social satire, part ghost story, this delightful, entertaining novel should be a hit...
Entertainment Weekly
Thomas Dyja's haunting novel unfolds like a new-millennium Babbitt with a supernatural twist...Dyja unpacks plausible surprises as he lampoons the modern obsession with nostalgia and explores the very nature of identity. Rating: A
Chris Bohjalian
...wondrous, wry and moving...a joy...a novel as surprising as it is poignant.
Washington Post
Miami Herald of the year's best barnburners...Dyja demonstrates a rare dramatic timing that propels his story at a sharp pace...Meet John Trow is the best book on obsession and the crises of middle age since Nabokov set his pedophile loose.
San Francisco Chronicle
Dyja adroitly builds the suspense as Steven falls deeper into the virual reality of the a parable for the snares and delusions of our times, Meet John Trow is richly rewarding indeed.
Providence Journal
His depictions of life in present-day small town America, the smoke screen allure of simpler times, the hollow romance of Civil War history, Steven Armour's descent into schizoid delusion as John Trow all hit the bull's-eye with unerring accuracy. Meet John Trow is alternately hilarious and harrowing, touching and perturbing. From start to finish, it is consistently entertaining.
...full of time-bending surprises...superb...Equal parts historical drama, ghost story, romance and mystery...a vital critique of millennial malaise.
Minneapolis Star-Tribune
Thomas Dyja's superbly knowing, entertaining, and downright literary second novel, Meet John Trow, moves the author into the top rank of serious young American novelists.
Publishers Weekly
Darkly comic...Dyja skillfully and humorously evokes the constant computer, television and general pop culture static that clouds Steven's vision, as well as the crack of musket fire and whiff of gunpowder in Riga Village...Dyja taps into some powerful 21st century anxieties and fantasies, which should help him attract new readers.
Washington Post Book World
Wondrous, wry and moving.... a novel as surprising as it is poignant. —Chris Bohjalian
Kirkus Reviews
An unfortunately sluggish first 50 pages give little hint of the riches of characterization, plot, and theme to be found in this superb second novel from the author of Play for a Kingdom. Once again, Dyja's subject is the Civil War—this time as "lived" by re-enactors at Riga Village, a historic mountaintop settlement in northwestern Connecticut. The homage paid to the past there attracts the attention of Steven Armour, a former history major, and a minor executive who manages Web sites for the Dilly-Perkins food conglomerate, with a mixture of general competence and periodic bad judgment that also afflicts his experience of marriage and parenthood. Joining the re-enactors, Steven is assigned the character of John Trow, a nondescript soldier whose unheroic life nevertheless begins to exert a strong fascination, especially when accumulating evidence suggests a secret Trow had shared with Polly Kellogg, wife of Trow's superior officer. Dyja pulls out one dazzling surprise after another, as Steven finds himself drawn to the married woman playing Mrs. Kellogg, endangering relationships with his impatient wife Patti and their two (brilliantly drawn) children, and alternately seduced and repelled by the possibly ghostly presence of Trow, "who" appears to be saying to Steven, "I am the person you want to be." This is a terrific subject, seldom if ever previously treated in fiction. Dyja makes the presence of the past all the more potent by juxtaposing against it the commercial world clamoring for Steven's attention (most memorably in such absurdities as Dilly-Perkins's Thanksgiving Day Parade float, embodying "a magical trip through the world of dumplings and pasta"). And it climaxesstunningly, at the Riga Villagers' reenactment of the catastrophic battle of Cold Harbor, with Steven fully possessed of the truth about John Trow, and prepared to discover whether he will or will not "become" him. Every bit as entertaining and gripping as it is ingenious.

Product Details

Random House UK
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.12(w) x 7.80(h) x 0.94(d)

What People are saying about this

Kurt Andersen
Chucking it all is an urge every twenty-first century American occasionally feels, or ought to. In Meet John Trow, Thomas Dyja uses that impulse to drive a novel that's part business satire, part domestic drama, part postmodern ghost story. And the whole thing works like a dream.
Jonathan Dee
Thomas Dyja has created a modern archetype in Steven Armour, a man in desperate need of some authenticity in his life who, in the end, gets more authenticity than he bargained for.
— Jonathan Dee, author of Palladio

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Meet John Trow 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago