When I received a copy of The Annunciations of Hank Meyerson, Mama’s Boy and Scholar
by Scott Muskin, I was happy to review an author from Minnesota, my neighbor state. What I
found within its pages is a novel of angst joined at the hip with humor, a feat that could
only come from a Minnesota writer.
The story begins as Hank Meyerson works on The Project—a bathroom remodel that begins
to look like a mirror of his troubled marriage—where Meyerson tears down, puts in new,
and generally cobbles together. It also could be a metaphor for his life. An Emily Dickinson
scholar, he has yet to find a teaching position and spends his wife's income trying to keep
the bathroom and his marriage working. After yet another blow up with his wife (and the
realization that he's in love with his sister-in-law), Meyerson flees to Montana where he
goes to work at a newspaper, discovering quirky characters and a lot about himself. Ultimately,
he returns and faces his personal and family demons, plunging him toward tragedy.
I found The Annunciations of Hank Meyerson, Mama’s Boy and Scholar to be less about
being a Mama's Boy and more about being the forgotten sibling in a sort of 21st century
Death of a
Salesman scenario, but without the broadness of the patriarchal character. Muskin's
portrayals are at once vivid but sometimes pulled in, creating subtle nuances, especially in
his Montana characters. The plot is spread throughout five sections and though it is a linear
plot, there are times when I had to read well into a section to find out why Hank Meyerson was
where he was and doing what he was doing.
The Annunciations of Hank Meyerson, Mama’s Boy and Scholar is a fine literary novel
of the contemporary struggle with relationships, both intimate and familial. Though Muskin
spends ink on introspection and allusion, he is at his finest when he cuts directly to the
story in more Hemingway-like sparseness because it is the story that sells this book, not
the literary devices he uses.