We don’t know who he is, and we don’t know what he’s done, but what we do know about the hero (??) of Dee’s compulsively readable Sugar Street is that he’s on the run from something and desperate to not be caught. In prose that is at once taut and richly nuanced, Dee ratchets up the tension while pondering contemporary society, from race, class, and gender to technology’s stranglehold on freedom and privacy. Coiled like a spring and ready to snap!— Daniel Goldin
This is a sort of dangerous book, with the potential to become a manifesto that people rewrite their lives around - a blueprint for dropping out and a logic for bad action. That said, it’s also a gritted-teeth honest and gutsy exploration of whiteness and masculinity - of exceptionalism, savior complex, and class tourism. One guy has a lot of stolen cash and a strong desire to disappear from his old life and the surveillance state. Even as things go entirely off the rails, the writing is so compelling and clear that you can’t help but to tear through this novel and spend days afterwards attempting to triangulate the lines between good and bad actions and good and bad reasons. This is a bold one.— Chris Lee
"This propulsive and furious book is as fun to read as it is relentless and unsparing. Deranged and faltering America, Jonathan Dee has your number." --Joshua Ferris, author of The Dinner Party
In Jonathan Dee's elegant and explosive new novel, Sugar Street, an unnamed male narrator has hit the road. Rid of any possible identifiers, his possessions amount to $168,548 in cash stashed in an envelope under his car seat. Vigilantly avoiding security cameras, he drives until he hits a city where his past is unlikely to track him down, and finds a room to rent from a less-than-stable landlady whose need for money outweighs her desire to ask questions. He seems to have escaped his former self. But can he?
In a story that moves with swift dark humor and insight, Dee takes us through his narrator's attempt to disavow his former life of privilege and enter a blameless new existence. Having opted out of his material possessions and human connections, the pillars of his new self - simplicity, kindness, above all invisibility - grow shakier as he butts up against the daily lives of his neighbors in their politically divided working-class city. With the suspense of a crime thriller and the grace of our best literary fiction, Dee unspools the details of our unlikely hero's former life and his developing new one in a drumbeat roll up to a shocking final act.
Dee has been compared by the Wall Street Journal to authors such as Jonathan Franzen and Jennifer Egan for his expansive, contemporary, social novels; Sugar Street is a leaner, more personal, but still uncannily timely look at the volatile America of today. A risky, engrossing and surprisingly visceral story about a white man trying to escape his own troubling footprint and start his life over.
About the Author
Jonathan Dee is the author of seven previous novels, most recently The Locals. His novel The Privileges was a finalist for the 2011 Pulitzer Prize and winner of the 2011 Prix Fitzgerald and the St. Francis College Literary Prize. A former contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine, a senior editor of The Paris Review, and a National Magazine Award-nominated literary critic for Harper's and The New Yorker, he has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation. He teaches in the graduate writing program at Syracuse University.