A Novel by Stuart Nadler
2013 / 352 Pages
Stuart Nadler’s long-awaited Wise Men has scratched my itch for a juicy domestic family saga. But more than that, it’s also left me impressed, a little sad, and completely surprised. When a modest New England lawyer launches an infamous case against the airline industry in the 1950s, the Wise family finds themselves occupying a much higher rung in the social ladder. Arthur Wise is now famous for his wealth and even more famous for his cutthroat attitude and ability to intimidate. Arthur Wise packs up his wife and son and moves the family out to a beautiful, secluded seaside property where they proceed to make money much faster than they can spend it.
Arthur’s son, Hilly, is a young adolescent who has grown lonely on the massive, isolated property. Hilly soon makes friends with the family’s new domestic servant – a black man named Lem. But Hilly soon finds that he would like to get better acquainted with Lem’s gorgeous niece, Savannah. The course of actions that occur in the summer of 1952 between Hilly, his father, Lem, and Savannah will set him on a years-long search to rectify a lifetime of guilt, longing, and regret. Part family saga, part romance, and part commentary on race, religion, sexuality, wealth, poverty, pride, marriage, and hope, Wise Men is incredibly entertaining and thought-provoking.
Despite Hilly’s upbringing, he does not inherit his father’s bigotry and prejudice, but he’s not exactly an activist, either. These racial tensions between the Wise family, Lem, and Savannah greatly influence the plot, but the book is more about fixation and the way secrets and regrets can completely exhaust your conscience. And quiet suffering can be the most grueling kind as Hilly, his father, and Savannah find out. A beautiful and tender story about obsession, endurance, grief, and communication set in the heated sociopolitical climate of the 1950s, Wise Men is a stunning achievement.