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Truth in Advertising

Truth in Advertising

4.7 12
by John Kenney

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“F. Scott Fitzgerald said that there are no second acts in American lives. I have no idea what that means but I believe that in quoting him I appear far more intelligent than I am. I don’t know about second acts, but I do think we get second chances, fifth chances, eighteenth chances. Every day we get a fresh chance to live the way we want.”


“F. Scott Fitzgerald said that there are no second acts in American lives. I have no idea what that means but I believe that in quoting him I appear far more intelligent than I am. I don’t know about second acts, but I do think we get second chances, fifth chances, eighteenth chances. Every day we get a fresh chance to live the way we want.”

FINBAR DOLAN is lost and lonely. Except he doesn’t know it. Despite escaping his blue-collar Boston upbringing to carve out a mildly successful career at a Madison Avenue ad agency, he’s a bit of a mess and closing in on forty. He’s recently called off a wedding. Now, a few days before Christmas, he’s forced to cancel a long-postponed vacation in order to write, produce, and edit a Super Bowl commercial for his diaper account in record time.

Fortunately, it gets worse. Fin learns that his long-estranged and once-abusive father has fallen ill. And that neither of his brothers or his sister intend to visit. It’s a wake-up call for Fin to reevaluate the choices he’s made, admit that he’s falling for his coworker Phoebe, question the importance of diapers in his life, and finally tell the truth about his past.

Truth in Advertising is debut novelist John Kenney’s wickedly funny, honest, at times sardonic, and ultimately moving story about the absurdity of corporate life, the complications of love, and the meaning of family.

Editorial Reviews

New York Times
A Book Riot Funniest Novel of the Year

“The protagonist, Finbar Dolan, is Don Draper stripped of all his glamour, success and pomade. What Fin, a midlevel copywriter, does have on Don is a sense of humor. . . . Framed around a surprisingly sweet romance, as well as Fin’s eventual confrontation with his painful family history, this debut offers a pleasing lightness-to-heart ratio.”

Washington Post
“Peppered with colorful impressions of New York City life, Truth in Advertising is a quick-witted, wry sendup of the advertising industry and corporate culture. . . . Delivers a clear-eyed, sympathetic story about complex family ties and the possibility of healing.”
Dallas Morning News
“[Kenney’s] insights are dead-on. . . . [His] plot is perfectly balanced between the insanity of both work and family, and the ending is satisfying without being saccharine. . . . Engaging and entertaining . . . The joy is in the journey, of spending time with a character that is, at times, annoying and thoughtful,arrogant and scared, childish and mature — in other words, someone like the rest of us.”
Cleveland Plain Dealer
“You'd expect that a man who writes humor pieces for the New Yorker would be funny – and he is. John Kenney, who also worked as an advertising copywriter, knows that world and skewers it mercilessly and hilariously in his debut novel. . . . It would also be safe to say that amazing things will most likely be happening in John Kenney's literary career right now. Truthfully.”
Chicago Tribune
Truth in Advertising has a cinematic sense of motion. . . . [Kenney is] a naturally comic author who has created a likeable narrator in Fin Dolan. . . . Humor springs from a deep well of family-induced anguish, and soon enough comedy and tragedy are braided throughout the narrative.”
Associated Press Staff
“This debut novel reads at times like a laugh-out-loud standup routine. What sustains it, though, is much more substantial: an engaging, believable plot, a fascinating if jaundiced view inside the contemporary world of New York advertising, and most of all, a lead character you're glad you get to know. . . . It's a measure of Kenney's writing talent that the regular gusts of delicious, smart-alecky ad agency banter among Dolan and his witty comrades and the painful-to-read scenes depicting the toxic relations among siblings feel equally real in this novel. . . . [A] smart, cinematic story.”
Entertainment Weekly
"We're sold on Kenney's trenchant, quick-witted debut."
"Kenney, who’s worked as a copywriter for 17 years, mines this rich territory for satire. . . . Fin’s struggle to understand his dad brings a layer of emotional complexity to the tale. . . . Kenney’s novel wrestles with deep questions: What makes a good man? What makes a good life? What should one’s contribution to the world be?"
O Magazine (“Ten Titles to Pick Up Now”)
“In this Nick Hornby-esque fiction debut, midlife crisis and family tragedy force a 39-year-old ad man to reevaluate his priorities.”
People Magazine
“A lively debut that has ‘movie deal’ written all over it.”
Denver Post
"Here's a smart one. . . . Lovers of the city will find much to love in this relatable, redemptive, and sometimes very funny story."
Boston Globe
“The comedy sparkles [with] mordant one-liners, snappy banter, and hilarious workplace scenarios.”
“It's the stuff of Jonathan Tropper novels and Judd Apatow films and every Zooey Deschanel fantasy.”
“The rare novel that's truly cinematic. It is sexy, the plot twists in just the right places; simply put, it's untamable. You will laugh almost as much as you will relate to the plight of the protagonist.. . . This book might just rouse the creative genius in you, too.”
"Hilarious. . . . Kenney mixes inside advertising jokes with the broad comedy necessary to keep those in the real world laughing."
Christian Science Monitor
“[A] comedic send-up of the ad industry's self-importance, as narrated by a good-hearted if skeptical underachiever . . . A pleasure to read.”
Lurzer's International Archive (UK)
"What really amazed me was the unexpected depth and subtleness of the rest of the book, which showcases writing that, in terms of talent, puts Kenney in a league with the best of American writers of his generation."
Toronto Star
"New York-based Kenney . . . knows of what he speaks. He is particularly brilliant at clashing Fin’s jadedness with the unglamorous products he’s forced to pitch. . . . [A] delightfully caustic piece of satire."
Seattle Post-Intelligencer
"It will make you laugh out loud at times and it will also touch you deeply. . . . This is the sort of book where you really care about the characters. . . . You will not be disappointed in Truth in Advertising. The plot is highly entertaining, but it is the joy of getting to know such a realistic, likeable, believable character as Finbar Dolan that makes this novel such a treat. Fin is the sort of guy you will enjoy spending time with.”
The Phoenix (Boston)
"A snortingly funny debut ... Although Nick Hornby is the obvious reference — humor and heartbreak of ordinary life — this wonderful book is more J. Alfred Prufrock."
"A masterful blend of wit and seriousness, stunning in its honesty. A novel sure to appeal to fans of Nick Hornby."
Shelf Awareness (Best Books of 2013)
"An honest and insightful novel about a business and a life that have both been anything but . . . . Wonderfully entertaining and elegantly written."
Booklist (starred review)
"A masterful blend of wit and seriousness, stunning in its honesty. A novel sure to appeal to fans of Nick Hornby."

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Meet the Author

John Kenney has worked as a copywriter in New York City for seventeen years. He has also been a contributor to The New Yorker magazine since 1999. Some of his work appears in a collection of The New Yorker’s humor writing, Disquiet, Please! He lives in Brooklyn, New York. Visit ByJohnKenney.com.

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Truth in Advertising: A Novel 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 12 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One of the best books I have read in years, and I am an avid reader. It is one of those books that makes you want to live a better, more meaningful life. You cannot ask for more than that. Thank you, John Kenney.
VeronicaK89 More than 1 year ago
*I was sent an advance reader copy from the publisher* What attracted me to this debut novel is the suggested similarity to Jonathan Tropper's novels. Having finished this book, I can honestly say that fans of Tropper will love this new volume from John Kenney. Much like Tropper, Kenney has a way of dissecting his characters and letting the reader enter their minds and really gain an understanding of them. By the end of the book, I felt like I knew Fin Dolan inside and out. There is a little bit of Fin Dolan in all of us. Do we truly know what makes us happy? Can we achieve happiness? Fin is dealing with a lot of issues, but who isn't? Fin's father was abusive and indirectly/directly (depending on where you side) responsible for Fin's mother's death. That has scarred the four Dolan children for life, making it unlikely they will ever be the type of family to stay in touch or show emotion to anyone. Thus, Fin has difficulty showing his emotions to the woman he loves. I found Fin to be especially likeable because of how easy it is to relate to him. His coworkers Pam and Ian are funny and refreshingly sarcastic which helps Fin keep his sanity while he tries to come up with the perfect diapers commercial on a tight budget. When Fin learns that his father has fallen ill, he must decide if he will take the time to go visit him, knowing his siblings won't. His mental journey while he deals with his father's illness answers many questions for readers, like why he is so scarred and why his emotions are kept under lock and key for the most part. The present is interspersed with momentary flashbacks so that readers slowly get a complete picture of Fin. There are a few surprises throughout this book that keep the reader interested. While Kenney deals with some poignant issues, his use of humor keeps this from being depressing. There is quite a bit of background information on advertising and creating a commercial which only adds to the story. The introspective parts of this book aren't cliche either which is also surprising. I definitely recommend this for anyone who is a fan of Jonathan Tropper or anyone interested in a look at the intricacies of family life
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Debutante More than 1 year ago
Love this Book !!! Funny and Tender. A great read. I hope he's prolific as well ! Can't wait to read more by John Kenney ~
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Reminds me of walking through the day. Actions I take. Thoughts I have. Trying to be better and dealing with life's path.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Kenny is beyond amazing and this book is one of my top five all time reads.  I went from laugh out loud tears of hysteria, to heartfelt tears of simpatico.  I want Fin Dolan to be in my life. He is edgy and real and wonderfully glib.  He is a mix of Camus’ Meursault, O’Neill’s Edmund, and the Farrelly brother’s characters of wit and charm.  He unfolds the back story gently;  a story that compromised Fin’s his ability live life.  Fin dabbles in punch lines and snickers…the stuff of 60 second commercials…  until he comes to terms with his past.  Lots of life truisms but without being didactic.  Love this book.  Walk a mile in Fin’s shoes and you won’t be disappointed…the journey is rewarding.  
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I want to have an expensive dinner with Fin and his wonderful friends. The ending of this beautiful novel is perfect. I've told my friends to rush out and buy it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Funny and just when you're enjoying a light ride, Kenney manages to tug at your heart and write into your truths
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Really enjoyed
charlottesweb93 More than 1 year ago
Truth In Advertising is a really well written novel. The humor, the pain, they flow together so seamlessly. It made it really easy to like Fin and root for him to find the happiness that has been lacking in his life.  If you are looking for a good novel, look no further, John Kenney will not disappoint you with Truth in Advertising.