Today’s Guest Review is by our friend Indreni. She selected to read Does Not Love by James Tadd Adcox. Without further ado here is her Guest Review:
Does Not Love
Chicago author James Tadd Adcox’s debut novel, Does Not Love–a noir thriller, social commentary, and in-depth meditation on marital love all rolled into one page-turner–was released this past October and published by indie press Curbside Splendor. What’s more fun than taking a gamble on a debut author’s small press novel that you stumble across at your favorite local indie bookstore?
Part of what caught my eye with this book right away was its setting in an alternate version of Indianapolis. Midsize Midwestern cities are relatively untapped goldmines for dystopian or science fictional novels, filled with post-industrial landscape, abandoned (or not really) buildings, homes, or entire neighborhoods, and colorful characters who struggle to redefine and re-engineer the new urban order they find themselves in.
Adcox’s novel has all of these—the main character, Viola, works in a grand old public library in a tough Indie neighborhood that’s seen better days. Her husband, Robert, is a corporate downtown lawyer representing the local pharmaceutical giant Obadiah Birch. The supporting cast includes a shady-but-romantic FBI agent sent to Viola’s library to enforce “the secret law,” which gives the nation’s authorities complete power over its citizens, and a ragtag, mistreated tribe of drug company “guinea pigs” that have taken up residence in abandoned storage facilities and are planning to overthrow the pharmaceutical company Robert represents.
But all this is merely the surrounding storm to the fact that Does Not Love is a surprisingly intimate and detailed case study of a marriage. The social malaise, upheaval, and paranoia that Adcox so accurately nails is a mirror reflecting that malaise in the characters’personal lives. Viola and Robert find themselves at a crossroads after dealing with a series of miscarriages, each grieving in their own ways–Robert wanting to turn more towards Viola and Viola turning away from Robert. Viola is a refreshing female character—she’s analytical and distant, whereas Robert is more sensitive, lovelorn, and perhaps the more sympathetic one.
The forces of social and personal unrest and upheaval converge when Viola becomes involved with the FBI agent, who is all too willing to fulfill her S&M fantasies that cause Robert alienation and discomfort, and when Robert’s friend, an Obadiah Birch representative, tells him “there’s a drug for that”—a drug that can make Viola fall in love with Robert again. He explains that love is a purely chemical process that can easily go wrong, resulting in such physical maladies as, “Hypoactive Desire Disorder…Erotic paranoia. Erotomania, also known as Clerambault’s syndrome…Sexual Aversion Disorder….” From here on, we can no longer trust Robert and Viola’s actions and feelings—where the organic stops and the drug effects begin—but Robert’s ultimate desire to uncover the truth leads him directlyinto the underworld of pharmaceutical “guinea piggers,” their secret society, and their struggle for revenge against Obadiah Birch’s unethical research.
Does Not Love is a fast-paced, offbeat, and truly perceptive read that questions at what point societydeems our human emotions and actions pathological, as well as how arbitrary that point might be. It is also a biting satire of our nation’s nebulous post-9/11 laws, and the potential outcomes when the extent of corporate and government involvement in our lives isnot so much blatantly dictatorial, but unclear.