The Decadents
by M.C. Schmidt
Library Tales Publishing

"So, what you're saying is that, no matter how bad the stain seems, there's always a way to repair it?"

Middle-aged Phil needs to improve his reputation, tarnished by a son he doesn't respect, a rival stealing his employees, and Fauxgnads, a vanity pet company, vying for best area business. So Phil, a successful owner of fast-food franchises, runs for political office. Like Phil, Eddie, recently divorced, has reasons to win back his pride and volunteers as campaign manager. Meanwhile, Lillian, Phil's wife, manages the stress of living with a husband and son at odds by buying "As-Seen-on-TV" products. However, Phil's campaign comes to a halt when a video featuring Phil's son, David Samuel, is leaked.

This story of one-upmanship appeals on a basic level, following the classic comedic problem-climax-happy ending arc. Phil's problems are funny because they're skin deep. The light tone set by slapstick humor and Phil's first world predicaments, such as how to make and sell unnecessary products like corn dogs, are countered in combative and spellbinding scenes with other all-American characters such as a Ruzanna, a beautiful, college-bound cashier working at Phil's chain and her football star boyfriend. Their refreshing and youthful stories of finding their adult voices and discovering life goals win against Phil's vengeful and conceited attitude.

The supporting characters are the true heroes of the narrative. Their no-holds-barred dialogue cuts through Phil's doublespeak and campaign propaganda. The telemarketer who Lillian talks to, seemingly about products but really about her unmet needs, delivers poignant lines. Likewise, a government worker Phil meets on his campaign trail isn't taken in by his slogans and speaks her mind to him. These and other surprising personalities, like taxidermy-obsessed, stringy-haired, hulking David Samuel, push boundaries and prick the conscience. In the end, the book is more a sitcom than a dramedy. The comeuppance for minor villains is entertaining and deserves hearty laughter.

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