Guterson (The Other) uses key elements of Oedipus the King as scaffolding for a snarky comedy skewering contemporary values. In 1962, a 34-year-old actuary seduces an underage au pair, producing a child who, abandoned, is adopted by the prosperous King family and named Edward. But Ed is not a king in name only; he grows into the "king of search," a man in the mold of Jobs or Gates running a company/kingdom akin to Google called Pythia. Guterson fans may be surprised at his lack of sympathy this time out; his characters are superficially realized and relentlessly ridiculed. The cure for the guilt Ed feels over causing a stranger's death? The right antidepressant. Ed has copious encounters with older girls, and then older women, a recurring theme Guterson employs partly for fun, but mostly to trumpet his point: Ed's not only Sophocles' Oedipus but also Freud's, thanks to an oversized (and oversimplified) Oedipus complex. But Guterson gives the myth neither new perspective nor fresh twist, and the ancient drama doesn't illuminate the present. The novel's worldview doesn't allow for heroes or gods, and treats fate as if it were mere coincidence. But the story is propelled by irony, much of it delightful, and if we're able to mock ourselves, we can't be all bad. Can we? (Oct.)
“Brilliant. . . . Transcendently dark and dazzling.” —The Seattle Times
“The ranks of dependably original novelists, who create radically new worlds again and again, then delight in tricking them up, are thin, but would certainly include Mitchell, Nicholson Baker, Thomas Pynchon, Jennifer Egan, Colson Whitehead and Jonathan Lethem. . . . This is the club where high concept is born—and with the publication of David Guterson’s Ed King it has a surprising new member.” —The New York Times
“Guterson succeeds in recasting one of literature’s most haunted and vaunted tales as a plausible page-turner. . . . Compelling.” —USA Today
“Old stories survived millennia because they tell us about the human condition. Brave writers like Guterson can renew them.” —The Oregonian
“Daring. . . . Guterson keeps [Ed King] winningly good-natured and almost farcical, all the better to teach timeless lessons about hubris, ambition, and the consequences of long-ago sins.” —O, The Oprah Magazine
“Guterson takes the reader through a rollicking half-century of American hubris and gluttony.” —The New York Times
“A tragic and darkly funny modern myth in an omnipotent, wry voice reminiscent of Philip Roth. . . . The Greeks weren’t afraid to take on God, and neither is Guterson. . . . A master storyteller.” —Bookreporter.com
“Guterson has managed to infuse this novel with feelings of freshness, relevance and even believability that are sure to delight 21st-century readers. A special pleasure will be experienced by those who can appreciate how the old elements have been modernized. Oedipus may not have been Guterson’s to begin with, but by the end, readers will have no doubts that Ed King is a creation entirely his own.” —BookPage
“[Guterson’s] portraits of humanity are real, and exceedingly enjoyable to read.” —San Francisco Chronicle
“A great story and a riveting read.” —The Daily Mail (London)
“Sharply written.” —The Guardian (London)
“David Guterson . . . retells one of the oldest stories we know in a way that makes you hang on every twist and turn. . . . A largely entertaining book that should add to Guterson’s already glittering reputation.” —The Free Lance-Star (Fredericksburg, VA)
“[Ed King] has original characters, a race to discover the truth as gripping as the denouement of Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca, and some insights into human relationships so sharp that they make a reader cringe.” —The New York Journal of Books
Walter Cousins has an institutionalized wife, two kids, and a job to hold down, but he still manages to hire, seduce, and impregnate a British nanny, Diane Burroughs, setting in motion a tale of mythic proportions. Refusing to abort, the wily Diane gives birth to a baby boy, abandons him, and proceeds to shake down Walter for a monthly check that starts her on the road to entrepreneurship. Diane's baby is adopted by Dr. and Mrs. Dan King, who, after forging a birth certificate, perch their Eddie on a pedestal so high he can't help but fall. Walter becomes a serial philanderer, Ed builds an Internet empire, and readers watch in horror as three disparate lives hurtle toward their fate in this uneven reimagining of the Oedipus myth. VERDICT While Diane's character practically jumps off the page, the titular Ed King comes across as a cardboard cutout. What commences as a sophisticated, Franzen-like look at the foibles and dashed dreams of the American family devolves into a melodrama that just doesn't feel authentic. Still, Guterson (Snow Falling on Cedars; Our Lady of the Forest) has a reputation for handling hot-button topics, and his fans will likely clamor for this. [See Prepub Alert, 4/4/11.]—Sally Bissell, Lee Cty. Lib. Syst., Ft. Myers, FL
From Guterson (The Other, 2008, etc.), a retelling of Oedipus Rex for the information age.
In 1962 Seattle, actuary Walter Cousins hires a British exchange student as au pair to help with his children while his wife recovers from her nervous breakdown. Soon he and Diane, a 15-year-old sociopath, are sleeping together. She becomes pregnant and disappears with the baby. He spends the rest of his life sending her child support, unaware she has abandoned the infant on a doorstep in a prosperous neighborhood. A random couple finds the foundling and turns him over to an agency that arranges an adoption. Alice and Dan King never disclose to their son Ed that he is adopted while raising him in their loving reformed Jewish household. During a rebellious period in his teens, Ed gets into a highway fracas with a stranger. Ed leaves the scene of the resulting fatal accident emotionally shaken but is never caught. After a brief bout of debilitating guilt, Ed graduates high school, where an affair with his teacher gives him a predilection for older women. As a math genius in college, Ed focuses on the "nascent field of search" while his equally brilliant but geekier younger brother Simon (the Kings' biological son from an unexpected post-adoption pregnancy) becomes a success at computer gaming. Meanwhile Diane has recreated herself several times, moving up and down the socio-economic ladder, scamming and being scammed. She's 42 but looks 32 when she and Ed meet at an exhibit on probability that coincidentally she first attended with Walter. Their mutual attraction is immediate. Soon Ed's company has grown bigger than Google. But in 2017, his experiments into artificial intelligence and genome mapping lead him to unsettling discoveries about his past as well as his present.
More comedy than tragedy: It's hard to garner much sympathy for characters whose lives are determined by their own selfish choices as much as by fate, but Guterson maintains an enjoyably sharp edge to his humor that will keep readers hooked.