Book review: The Portable Veblen

IF YOU see squirrels as rats with bushy tails, here’s a warning: this review contains vermin (and nuts). 

However, if your every encounter with a squirrel is akin to a fairytale, then you’re going to love Veblen Amundsen-Hovda, the quirky protagonist in American author Elizabeth McKenzie’s utterly charming new novel.

We meet her in California’s Palo Alto, at the moment of her engagement to neuroscientist Paul Vreeland, spied on by a squirrel. 

As the tale unfolds, and they plan their wedding, we’re introduced to the supporting cast of their lives — neurotic mum and mentally ill father (Veblen), hippy parents and brain-damaged brother (Paul) and taken back to their childhoods, to find out how they became the eccentric 30-somethings they are.

McKenzie gently teases out what makes this pair tick, as individuals melding their identities into a couple, making them some of the most acutely drawn characters I’ve ever read.

A true joy of a book.

The Portable Veblen

Elizabeth McKenzie

4th Estate, €17.00 ebook, €11.15


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