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January 25, 2016 at 04:53 PM EST

The Portable Veblen: A Novel

type
Book
Current Status
In Season
author
Elizabeth McKenzie
publisher
Penguin Press
genre
Novel
We gave it an A-

Modern romance, Big Pharma, and one very intuitive squirrel collide in McKenzie’s clever, winningly surreal novel. Veblen Amundsen-Hovda is the book’s titular heroine, though she hardly considers herself the main character in her own life: Sweet and a bit lost at 30, she’s in the midst of “a delayed love affair with the world due to an isolated childhood and various interferences since.” She’s also having doubts about her fiancé, a young Stanford Ph.D. with a promising future in medical devices and his own patchouli-scented past to overcome. McKenzie has a pitch-perfect ear for a certain kind of California kookery, and even when she veers twee (your tolerance for anthropomorphized rodents may be tested), it’s hard not to be charmed by Veblen’s whimsy. A–

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