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Meet the Zillers – Warren, Camille, and their three kids – living the life in a Southern Californian gated community, the picture-perfect American family. Or so it seems. There’s Jonas, the youngest, who dresses entirely in orange and is oblivious to the endless trial of humiliation his behavior invites; Dustin, the smart and popular oldest, who’s lucky in love but takes it for granted until it’s too late; and Lyle, the sister in the middle, socially inept, painfully shy, and oddly anemic-looking against the West Coast canvas of tanned starlets and blue skies.
Married for 17 years, Warren is in real estate and Camille makes educational videos with titles like “Conception is FUNdamental.” They’re bright, busy, and determined, yet beneath all the bonhomie lurks a more troubling scenario. When Warren’s real-estate venture goes bust, the car, furniture, and home are all snatched away, and the Zillers are forced to own up to some painful truths. An affair, a tragic accident, and a runaway boy add to their growing estrangement. As they try to recapture what they thought was family intimacy, they only succeed in causing one another more pain.
In Model Home, Eric Bogosian’s acid tongue meets the social commentary of Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections. Franzen set the bar high, but Puchner clears it with ease. With his first novel, he has penned a comic masterpiece of a family’s implosion that’s troubling, touching, and darkly hilarious.