Six Figures

Leebron, Fred

Published by Knopf, 2000
ISBN 10: 0375406409 / ISBN 13: 9780375406409
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0375406409 Dj blurbs by Madison Smartt Bell, Stewart O'Nan, & Chris Offutt. Bookseller Inventory #

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Synopsis: With Six Figures, Fred Leebron has written an intricately nuanced novel of psychological investigation and suspense, riveting in the depth and intensity of the questions it raises about ourselves -- and about our status-obsessed society.

Warner Lutz isn't sure how he got where he is, but he's not particularly happy to be there: midthirties, married, two kids, dead-end career in fund-raising, cramped town house, old Honda, clothes slightly frayed around the edges. His latest job has landed him and his family in Charlotte, North Carolina, a boomtown where everyone else seems to have more than Warner -- and more is what Warner wants.

But it's not what he gets. Instead, the probation period of his job has just been extended; his wife, Megan, thinks her own job is in jeopardy as well; their entire savings are going toward a house that won't be big enough for them; and their four-year-old daughter, the preschool teacher tells them, is "a couple of beats behind" the other children. In fact, there isn't one part of Warner's life that's going the way he'd planned.

But are his disappointment and frustration powerful enough to trigger murderous anger?

When Megan is viciously attacked and Warner emerges as the prime suspect, the answer might be yes ("This was how it happened, this was how their lives unraveled, this was how you realized you didn't have it so bad in the first place"). Now, as disbelief and distrust poison relations with family, friends, and colleagues, Warner struggles to understand how he has become a man whom others -- and, more appallingly, he himself -- could believe capable of committing such a crime.

With realism and emotional honesty, Six Figures gives us the story -- both powerful and disturbing -- of a family caught in complex and ambiguous turmoil.

Review: Fred G. Leebron's remarkable novel takes place in the chain-restaurant mecca of Charlotte, North Carolina, in a cramped, shabby house where Warner Lutz can't stop mulling over his rage and his many failures. His wife, Megan, tries to keep him smiling, but he lives up to his role as "the most negative person she'd ever met." Sometimes his two children cause glimmerings of life in his burned-out soul, but more often they are crying, soiling their pants, asking stupid questions over and over. For readers on the verge of entering marriage and family life, Six Figures could make even the most stoic turn and run in the other direction. The creeped-out hangover this novel leaves is a testament to Leebron's great powers. Like John Cheever, he makes you wonder if maybe the whole thing--putting kids to sleep, having dinner, lovemaking, trying to make enough money--isn't all somehow a slow and terminal act of violence. Warner loses it one Saturday morning, after drinking a double vodka for breakfast and helping his wife change their baby boy. While his daughter and wife look on, he gets to his knees and tries to squeeze himself into a space underneath the crib:

He was too thick to fit under the crib. He pulled out the activity blanket and tried again. The metal latticework hooked itself the length of the mattress. He poked at the white bedding. "I'm down here," he said. "Down here. Here."
Leebron has written one previous novel, Out West, and has won all the big prizes and taught at all the good workshops. For those in the literary world who wagered on him, Six Figures is proof that he was a good bet. It is a novel so quintessentially modern, and so carefully crafted that it's almost impossible to put down. This is not because Warner is a "likable" character (he's frequently detestable) or because a lot happens (aside from one terrible crime two thirds into the book, not much does). Six Figures succeeds because of the way rage seeps into the humdrum world Warner occupies; the way his little gripes build one upon another until they seem on the verge of killing him, or those around him. Leebron has written a book that runs over the reader like a tidal wave, even as his impeccable prose lulls you like a calm sea. --Emily White

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Bibliographic Details

Title: Six Figures
Publisher: Knopf
Publication Date: 2000
Binding: Hardcover
Book Condition: Fine
Edition: First Edition

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