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Formats
Paperback Book Details
  • 05/2021
  • 9781636495934
  • 338 pages
  • $18.99
Arnold Johnston
Author
Swept Away
Writer Dennis McCutcheon is facing the loss of his job at a small Pennsylvania university while coping with the aftereffects of a bitter divorce. But when his alma mater Wayne State University offers to produce one of his plays, Swept Away, the news seems like the solution to all his problems. From there, Dennis falls almost immediately into a love affair with a beautiful married woman, only to suddenly find himself mugged on a Detroit street, then suspected of killing his lover's husband. His luck is coming at a price, and he begins to suspect he may be the pawn in a clever murder plot centering on sex and money. Filled with pop culture references, and spiced by possible paranormal activities, Arnie Johnston's Swept Away is a raucous and unpredictable adventure unfolding amid Detroit neighborhoods and landmarks, a page-turning story questioning all the while America's preoccupation with fame and fortune.
Reviews
In this surprising comic novel, Dennis McCutcheon is a struggling, recently divorced college professor and playwright who is desperately worried about his future in academia–as well as his romantic prospects and happiness in general. Johnston’s engaging and mysterious novel follows Dennis from Pennsylvania to Detroit after he learns his alma mater, Wayne State University, wants to stage a production of his play, “Swept Away.” Once there, Dennis falls for the beautiful and troubled Andrea, but his contentment is short lived. After Dennis is mugged, he becomes further embroiled in a highly publicized scandal when he is suspected of murdering Andrea’s vitriolic husband, Larry.

Dennis may appear at first glance to be a stereotypical jaded academic, but Johnston avoids cliché, revealing his protagonist to have much more going on beneath the surface. He offers readers real reasons to want to spend time getting to know this guy. Both Dennis and his best friend and coworker, Eileen, face common struggles that have too often not been part of the public conversation: Dennis’ sense of inferiority is heightened by his ex-wife Deirdre’s ongoing emotional abuse, including online harassment and stalking. Film scholar Eileen, meanwhile, is subjected to professional scrutiny despite her stellar publication record: “Her opportunities were limited by her sexual orientation as a faculty member in a relatively small college town that didn’t even have a gay bar.”

While Johnston’s characters face myriad real-world challenges, unpredictable supernatural forces are also at play, such as a series of Civil War-era apparitions that leave Dennis wondering who has really invited him back to Detroit and why. The story at times moves slowly, and the sharp commentary about the business of creativity is likely more exhaustive than many readers might hope. But the book is incisive, and narrator Dennis is engaging, making Johnston’s tale of professional ambition, midlife aggravation, and treacherous love affairs delightfully unpredictable.

Takeaway: A sharp, engaging, wholly unpredictable novel of ambition and academia.

Great for fans of: Julie Schumacher's Dear Committee Members, Jane Smiley’s Moo.

Production grades
Cover: A-
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: B+
Marketing copy: A

Formats
Paperback Book Details
  • 05/2021
  • 9781636495934
  • 338 pages
  • $18.99

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