Mr. Wonderful by Daniel Blake Smith delves into the life of an academic, juggling family and his teaching career. Concerned about his aging father who is dealing with medical issues, Brian is faced with an adopted adult son who just can’t seem to find his way in life and inevitably ends up returning home while on the run from a dangerous situation. The sudden arrival of his son adds to the upheaval and adds further strain to what seems like an already threadbare marriage.
Between the phone calls from his younger brother about their father, the wishes of his father’s wife, unrest at the university where he teaches, and his wife’s genuine disdain for their adopted son, Brian has some hard decisions to make, as he tries to come to terms with his family, and himself.
A character-driven literary novel, Smith writes flawed but fascinating characters. Brian’s son Danny does come across as a lost cause, which can make him hard to like at times, but this is conveyed with a light touch that is never overbearing. The prose is fairly straightforward overall and could have used a bit of embellishment for this type of story. That said, there are many amusing and poignant moments that will be having you nodding your head in recognition, and this breezy relatability propels the novel along.
On the whole, Mr. Wonderful is a comforting read because of its core humanity, and for how Smith skillfully crafts recognizable characters.