Top critical review
Odd but worth reading
June 12, 2010
Stash is a strange book. I say this because throughout the novel the reader, or at least this one, didn't know whether to like or dislike the main character, Gwen, and also couldn't quite figure out what the author was trying to say about suburbia, marriage, recreational drug use, pharmaceuticals and several other topics that crop up in the plot.
One of the other main characters, Jude, also seems to generate ambivalence in the author. Note that I say "in the author," not the reader. David Klein doesn't seem to know how he himself feels about his own creation. One minute Jude is portrayed as a more-or-less good guy who takes his role as a single father responsibly and just happens to sell recreational drugs on the side. The next Jude is a criminal verging on the edge of evil.
Ditto for Gwen and her husband Brian. I couldn't make up my mind if Gwen is a myopic, rich suburban housewife or an enlightened mom who just needs to unwind once in awhile. I wondered if Brian was really the uptight, big pharma hypocrite he seemed, or if he was just a nice guy trying to deal with being the beast of burden for his spoiled wife and kids. If Klein set out to challenge the reader by making his characters subtle and full dimensional, I believe he failed. Instead they come off as schizophrenic.
Now here's the big HOWEVER...there are elements of this novel that are quite engaging and, true to the blurb on the book jacket, the book is a page turner. Klein is good at developing a plot and building momentum as events move along. And in Aaron Capuano Klein has created a character that truly is full dimensional. One feels empathy for Aaron while disliking him at the same time.
The net on this one: Klein has talent and with luck in his second novel he will be less ambivalent about the characters while keeping his instinct for strong plotting.