Review

New World Monkeys

by Nancy Mauro

In her debut novel, Nancy Mauro’s new world is more than
literary fiction. It is a microcosm of trials that test any
relationship and the lives of the individuals who comprise it.

Married for five years, Lily and Duncan inadvertently run over a
boar, an upstate New York town mascot, where Lily inherits an old
Victorian house. The house is a smaller version of The Money
Pit
“primed for torching, dilapidated beyond its Queen
Anne elegance.” The celebrity-status mascot is named
Sovereign of the Deep Wood, according to flyers depicting the
tusked boar Lily whacked with a tire iron to put out of its misery
after Duncan ran over it. The longer Lily and Duncan conceal
complicity of the tell-tale swine slaughter, the more they feel
townsfolk taunt them with knowledge of Sovereign’s
disappearance.

Every night at 10, ancient artillery is fired as a warning to
pig thieves at large. Lily thinks breakfast bacon is a mockery of
her evil act. Duncan’s mind morphs every innocent question
into an ad agency skit conspired to implicate him in pig genocide.
Lunch-chucking scenes follow discovery that the pig corpse is
missing. Lily eventually confesses the crime to likable Lloyd the
Peeping Tom, the “Town Perv,” knowing that he
can’t blackmail her. “It ran out in the middle of the
road. It didn’t exactly die. I had to sort of beat it to
death.” Lily’s cure-all for the swine flu.

Lily researches her dissertation subject at the small-town
library, while Duncan is a New York ad agency writer
“creating commercials that most people want to avoid”
and tries his hand at gardening. He discovers a human bone and tiny
gravestone dated 1902, with only the name TINKER. Tinker is known
by locals to be the nanny who allegedly kidnapped Lily’s
turn-of-the-century infant grandfather. Each weekend, Duncan drives
“two hours to escape the lunatic fringe in the city only to
be greeted by its rural counterpart” in Osterhagen.

At the library, Lily sees Missing Pig posters with a photo of
Sovereign wearing a cape --- too late to let Osterhagenites know
that Sovereign’s death was an accident. Wag-tongues gossip
that Sovereign was stolen. Everyone comes under suspicion,
including Lily and Duncan, whose wild imaginations cause problems
in their marriage. The pig killers need a reason to question the
sincerity of their marriage. Both fear rejection of the other,
sexual initiation by either, both wanting to be last in a losing
race to nowhere. From her perspective, “Lily had evolved as a
species. While he remained terrestrial and not quite upright she
had entered the order of new world monkeys, was afforded a superior
position among the trees.” Each blames the other for little
dramas played out in the tiny town, all for the lack of
communication.

Lily and Duncan are determined to become amateur detectives and
archaeologists, unearthing and reassembling Tinker’s bones in
the cellar. Just a tiny problem: Sovereign’s owner Skinner
has a poodle determined to dig up Tinker’s century-old
skeleton. Skinner questions why his remaining pet is intrigued with
his new neighbors’ garden crater. On daily dog retrieval,
Skinner notices Duncan’s mangled Saab bumper, just the
right-sized dent to have been made by a certain mascot boar. Though
apparently a few whiskers shy of a full beard, Skinner tries his
own hand at playing Dick Tracy, telling Lily that his pooch dragged
home a human bone. Pooh-poohing the idea that whoever killed
Sovereign also kills humans, she asks, “Why was the bone in
the same ditch as the boar?” Oops!

With clever banter and emphasis placed on frivolous issues that
often plague relationships and the need for communication, NEW
WORLD MONKEYS will appeal to the Generation Y set turning
30-something, who as teens “grew up between Iraq and
Iraq.”

Reviewed by L. Dean Murphy (DeanMurphy@Verizon.net) on January 12, 2011

New World Monkeys
by Nancy Mauro

  • Publication Date: September 7, 2010
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Three Rivers Press
  • ISBN-10: 0307461424
  • ISBN-13: 9780307461421