Adam the King

Publication Date: May 20, 2008

224 pp


List Price US $21.95
ISBN: 9781590512845

The wedding of billionaire Adam Bloch and Maisie Maclaren is the event of the year in Clement’s Cove, Maine–a town in which the mansion-like “cottages” of the summering elite sit side-by-side with the modest homes of working-class locals. Adam, a shy, tentative man with a terrible tragedy in his past, has, at fifty-four, reached the moment in his life when he feels he is finally ready to live–and yet he doesn’t quite know what to do with himself. When Maisie asks for a lap pool so she can strengthen her body, debilitated by years of Hodgkin’s disease, Adam approaches his neighbor with a generous offer to buy the plot of land on which her trailer sits to make room for the pool. She refuses, and a chain of events is set in motion that pits Adam against his neighbors, the new rich against those scraping by, outsider against old-timer, in an escalating struggle that can only end in catastrophe.

Taut, swift, and startling, Adam the King depicts the inexorability of fate against the backdrop of the money-mad ’90s, the emptiness of raging ambition and the fallout of the drift toward conservative politics and values.

Excerpt from Adam the King

Adam and Maisie had the wedding of the the year that year in Clement’s Cove. And they were no longer young. He was in his fifties and never been married. She’d been married once, for about twenty minutes to a Navajo chief outside Taos and later she adopted two little Chinese girls, but mostly she had lived alone. They invited everybody as if it were once in a lifetime. Their families that hardly knew each other and probably never would, old friends, newer friends, an ecumenical crowd, those who got rich and those who didn’t, those who invented something and those who played along, government guys, research guys, investment guys, TV guys, a few artists, a couple writers, doctors and lawyers and wives, ex-hippies who started country businesses and those whose best days were thirty years behind them. The meritocracy in all its multiform display. And they invited everyone in Clement’s Cove, too. All the year-rounders, Jeffrey Lewis the people who weren’t from away. A big tent, as the politicians used to say. And it was a very big tent. They had to clear trees to fit it on the land, a tent of Camelot or the Thousand and One Nights.

“[Lewis’s] marvelous ear for idiomatic speech is revealed as much through narration as in dialog. . . . Ultimately, public libraries should have the entire quartet in their collections.” —Library Journal

“Lewis catches the thrill of proximity to America’s eastern WASP aristocracy to an uncomfortable degree: their studied vagueness, their heartiness, the aloofness that cannot be copied.” —Los Angeles Times

“ . . . an insightful and even beautiful writer . . .” —The Plain Dealer

“ . . . a writer with consummate skill . . . ” —Portland Press Herald

1. The author has suggested that Adam the King is a tragedy in novel form. What aspects of classical tragedy are present in the form and story of the book?

2. To what extent does Adam the King suggest the zeigeist of the 90’s, the Clinton years?

3. Should Adam have married Maisie?

4. Should Maisie have married Adam?

5. What does the chorus of village people add to the book?

6. People’s relationship to land seems to be an important theme of the book. What does the land find out about each of the main characters?

7. Adam as end-of-the-century assimilated Jew. Is it key to the book, or only incidental?

8. Adam, despite his money, despite his guilty past, aspires to “normality.” Is there anything “normal” about this? Is “normality” feasible for a man like him? Does “normality” mean anything, finally, or is it simply a telling of Adam’s dream?

9. How would you describe the feelings that Verna and Roy have for each other?

10. What does her daddy’s boat mean to Verna? To Roy? To each about the other? To Adam Bloch?

11. Is the book too hard on any of its characters?

12. Adam the King is the culmination of Jeffrey Lewis’s Meritocracy Quartet. If you have read the other books, does it seem a fitting conclusion? If you have not, do you feel you’ve missed anything?