The insightful and provocative stories in Tom Paine's collection spring from a series of seismic events that rocked the post-millennium world. News headlines from the last decade -- the fall of Baghdad, the Occupy Wall Street movement, and the BP oil spill -- not only inspire the settings but also raise ethical questions that percolate throughout this ominous and timely work.
A stark reminder of the challenges and resultant anxiety facing a global society, "e;A Boy's Book of Nervous Breakdowns"e; depicts the simultaneously dreamlike and brutally real experience of witnessing contemporary political and environmental catastrophes. Paine approaches the second U.S. invasion of Iraq through the eyes of a CBS radio journalist and her desperate Iraqi translator as they report the opening months of the attack and dodge dan- ger with a newborn in tow. In other stories, a father blames global warming for the drowning death of his daughter and journeys by horseback across the last of the Montana glaciers; a Japanese reggae band struggles under the radioactive umbrella of the Fukushima nuclear disaster; and a genius at Goldman Sachs invents a money-making algorithm, then ends his days with a tribe of headhunters in the Amazon.
Paine masterfully orchestrates these episodic depictions of a failing civilization, however unnerving, through a wide array of perspectives, each tied to the other by Cassandra-like prophecies. Immediately compelling, "e;A Boy's Book of Nervous Breakdowns"e; confronts the harsh realities of our time with imaginative and moving vignettes that reinforce the fragility, greed, and heartache of the human condition.