"Giroux's prose is reminiscent of Richard Russo's writing: intricate and incisive, though always full of warmth and humor. . . . A well-balanced comic tale that deftly grapples with larger contemporary themes."
-- Kirkus Reviews
"I devoured Ring On Deli in a kind of helium trance, agog at its antic intelligence, its knowing humor, and its generosity of heart. Eric Giroux's Pennacook is a bountiful land indeed, rich in local history and drama and small, beleaguered institutions, along with those small, beleaguered humans who against considerable odds (and herds of roaming boars) keep them going. It has the charm of some heady contemporary fable, in which the whole business model we call America is transformed back into some weirdly plausible, even utopian experiment."
-- Robert Cohen, author of Amateur Barbarians
"From a small town budget referendum to a supermarket revolution to roving packs of wild boar. Like his Yankee forebears Tom Perrotta and John Irving, Eric Giroux mashes together hot-button social issues and wacky slapstick with a keen eye and a big heart. Ring On Deli is a zany, high-energy, absolutely satisfying satire of American appetites."
-- Stewart O'Nan, author of Last Night at the Lobster
"Funny and imaginative . . . . Set in a small New England town, Ring On Deli is an off-beat primer on American business which offers a heartwarming and engaging story of people willing to fight to protect an institution."
-- Daniel Korschun, co-author of We Are Market Basket: The Story of the Unlikely Grassroots
Movement that Saved a Beloved Business
"It's the Great Recession, and feral pigs are roaming the shuttered streets of Pennacook. As big business arrives to claim Bounty Bag, the town's family-owned grocery store, brothers Ray and Patrick find themselves taking sides in a fight that alternately divides and unites their friends and neighbors. Tackling important socioeconomic issues with equal parts humor and compassion, Giroux has a comic's sense of timing, a journalist's eye for detail, and a poet's love of language. We need more novels like Ring On Deli, perhaps now more than ever."
-- David Eric Tomlinson, author of The Midnight Man
In this debut novel, a pair of brothers weathers the changing fortunes of a failing New England town.
Pennacook, Massachusetts, has seen better days: “What they’d soon call the Great Recession had just unmasked itself to the world, but it seemed to have gotten a head start here.” The depressed mill town’s affordability is why Ray Markham chose to settle there five years ago, after his parents were killed in a car accident and the recent high school graduate became the legal guardian of his younger brother, Patrick. Since then, Ray has worked at the deli counter of the local chain grocery store, Bounty Bag, while Patrick has made his way through the town’s not-so-good public school system. Bounty Bag happens to be the largest employer and the primary landowner in Pennacook. (The chain may also be partially responsible for the town’s substantial population of wild boars.) Dr. Regina Chong, principal of Patrick’s high school, is supporting a referendum to override the local tax cap to fund a desperately needed new school building, but for her plan to work, she needs to spur voter turnout among the generally disengaged electorate. Her scheme is thrown into jeopardy when a management shake-up at Bounty Bag—and the resulting push for automation—inspires the workers to rise up in protest. Meanwhile, 16-year-old Patrick has been getting into trouble, showing up to track practice drunk, dyeing his hair electric blue, and “running away” to stay in a friend’s basement. While Ray navigates the changing landscape of Bounty Bag with his colorful co-workers—odd characters like Muscles Carbonara, Toothless Mary, and The Alfredo—Patrick learns a bit of American history from his terminally ill teacher Mr. Grant, who helps him put the instabilities of capitalism and democracy in perspective. Can the Markhams manage to stay afloat, even if Pennacook itself is going down?Giroux’s prose is reminiscent of Richard Russo’s writing: intricate and incisive, though always full of warmth and humor. Giroux particularly shines when chronicling the rules and rule breakers of Bounty Bag: “Every law and the Bounty Bag Code were against Toothless Mary’s smoking in Deli, but before the store opened she did it anyway and left her hair unwrapped too. During business hours, she smoked on the Golden Mile, the long, wide lane out back used for trash and Deliveries. Sometimes she returned from the Golden Mile with little pieces of garbage attached to her.” The author ambitiously sets out to say something about the state of the contemporary American town, subject to the whims of corporations, distracted voters, and shortsighted politicians. He manages to achieve that goal without drifting too far into didacticism or oversimplification. The characters are believable even as they are peculiar, and readers will have no trouble sympathizing with their various attempts to stay employed—or simply to remain sane. Patrick is a particularly well-drawn figure. Readers will not regret their time spent in Pennacook and will likely keep an eye out for whatever lighthearted dramas Giroux puts his pen to in the future.
A well-balanced comic tale that deftly grapples with larger contemporary themes.