In The Stray American, Wendy Brandmark’s accomplished – if frustrating – second novel, the author returns to the theme of alienation that characterised her debut, The Angry Gods. Larry Greenberg leads an unfulfilling existence in London, falling into bed with women who never ask him to stay the night and spending his days teaching law in an outpost of a third-rate American college catering largely to overseas students. Brandmark’s prose and taut plotting draw the reader in, even though we can clearly see what Larry, blinded by egotism and self-pity, cannot. He is a truly unlikeable character; not even an antihero, he’s less of an Everyman than an Everymanchild.
Larry is stuck in a state of arrested development – having fled his life as a corporate lawyer in Boston, he is now living out a second adolescence in England, no more mature than many of his students. In fact, Larry’s life is very much like that of a student: