Two Guys from Verona

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Set in the fictional Manhattan suburb of Verona, New Jersey, in 1999, TWO GUYS FROM VERONA: A NOVEL OF SUBURBIA, James Kaplan’s second novel, traces the mid-life crises of Will Weiss and Joel Gold. As both men face their twenty-fifth high school reunion and the dawning of the millennium, they are forced to confront the passage of time and to reevaluate their lives.

Unwilling to take risks, Will chooses to enter the family box business. He rationalizes his safe decision to work for his father by reassuring himself that he “hadn’t blown” certain success as others might have. His eccentric friend, Joel, “a guy who should have gone places and done things” works in a sub shop and still lives at home with his doting mother. Joel is entrenched in the past, haunted by memories of his beautiful high school sweetheart who remains forever youthful in Joel’s imagination. Joel simply has refused to move ahead, while Will sees little value in looking backward. Both men are transformed by their high school reunion. Joel rediscovers an old romance and literally meets a ghost from the past. Will encounters people who ultimately destroy his marriage and nearly cost him his life. Will’s world of country clubs, expensive cars, consumerism, real estate, stock investments, and sexual daydreams eventually overwhelm him as the superficial security he so carefully cultivated comes tumbling down. The high school reunion and the new millennium have important repercussions for the two men: in mid-life, Will and Joel are finally forced to confront adulthood.

TWO GUYS FROM VERONA is a witty and biting coming of age novel about a privileged generation still living in the shadows of their parents’ achievements. Kaplan captures the essence of the excesses and uncertainties of end-of-the-millennium suburbia with unrelenting precision and deep insight. This portrait of two forty- something men is sure to resonate with readers who have wrestled with mid-life issues.