By: Kathleen Maher
Perhaps the best definition of the American Dream is ” the belief that every individual has an equal opportunity to achieve success and prosperity through hard work, determination and initiative.” A very noble goal indeed! However, what happens when the pursuit of this dream goes off the rails? When a person is so invested in the quest for perceived success that they leave a wake of destruction and anguish in their path? In Kathleen Maher’s novel Underground Nest we are able to see such a scenario.
The story is entirely focused upon Zach Severin’s quest for wealth and success in life. He will do whatever it takes to achieve such prosperity. With a keen understanding of how to rise in the societal ranks by superficial and duplicitous means, Zach dedicates his entire existence to such shallow goals. Unfortunately for anyone who is close to him, this means they are to be caught up in a whirlwind of abuse, lies and deceit. With his perfect “trophy family,” which consists of a wife and two children safely tucked at home, Zach proceeds to betray them on an ongoing basis. His life is full of affairs, hypocrisy and literally anything which will elevate his societal status. Nevertheless, when his secrets are inevitably discovered, Zach loses everything which he worked so diligently to achieve. With his entire world falling apart, will Zach finally discover what is truly valuable in life? Or is he destined to hit rock bottom with literally no chance of ever rebounding?
For anyone looking to read a story which is a virtual case study for the American Dream gone wrong… then this is the novella for you! The theme of avarice and greed is prevalent throughout the tale. Indeed, it can be further refined to be shown as a clear battle between man and himself. There can be little doubt that Zach is his own worst enemy. The tale is actually told through Zach’s perspective and we are allowed consistent access to his narcissistic and warped views. The writing has a very good flow to it as the author clearly knows her craft. Nevertheless, this particular reader was not actively engaged in the story. I found it to be one-dimensional and I was consistently waiting for a big event or significant transformation to occur which would lead to my re-engagement. The series of ongoing events simply did not manage to immerse me in the story.
In truth, Zach and his skewed perspective are the story. That is probably the main issue I have with the work as I find him to be such an entirely unlikeable character. I understand that this was undoubtedly the author’s point, but it just did not do it for me personally. In terms of character development, Zach was really the only character of significance. The others were not really covered in much depth. Take his wife Beth for instance. I would have liked to have known more about what was actually going through her mind. How can she be knocked silly one minute only to have a roll in the “proverbial clay” the next? Ultimately, while there was some growth in Zach’s character by the end of the novella, it was not enough to carry the day. More exploration of Zach’s family members would have been useful and ultimately contributed to Zach’s overall growth.
Overall, the writing prowess of this author can carry the day with this novella. The writing is sharp and it flows beautifully. While the actual storyline did not appeal to me personally, I am sure there are many who would enjoy it a great deal. It is a novella which can be recommended for adult readers.
3 out of 5 Narcissistic Stars for this one! ***