‘The Invaders’ by Karolina Waclawiak – Trouble in Paradise

‘The Invaders’ by Karolina Waclawiak (2015) – 236 pages

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Country Clubs. There must be thousands of them spread throughout the United States. These are the sanctuaries of the wealthy. According to ‘The Invaders’, the members are golf-addled, shallow, and exclusionary. Some things never change.

‘The Invaders’ is a novel about the dissatisfactions of the country club life in Little Neck Cove, Connecticut off Long Island Sound. It is told in alternating chapters by former trophy wife Cheryl, now forty-four, and her Dartmouth dropout, spoiled brat stepson Teddy. Life for these wealthy residents revolves around the country club with its golf outings, fashion shows, and other social party occasions. It is a major disaster for the club when Teddy wrecks his car on the club tennis court causing it to be closed for the summer.

The ladies and gentlemen in the neighborhood are upset about outsider fishermen invading their territory, some of them possibly Mexican – hence, ‘The Invaders’ – and they build a wall to keep out undesirables. Where have we heard that before? After they build the wall, the residents are more scared than ever that someone might surmount the wall.

Cheryl is a bit of an outsider herself coming from a sales clerk background before she married her older wealthy husband Jeffrey while he was on the rebound from the death of his first wife. Now he has lost interest in her and hardly figures in the story. She is enough of an outsider so that she can look askance upon her rich neighbors. However she has been there long enough to fit in to some extent.

The stepson Teddy is a total waster. He is always going through other people’s medicine cabinets looking for opioid painkillers like Oxycontin and Vicodin to take. Apparently Teddy hasn’t found out about heroin yet which has the same effects as Oxycontin at one-fifth the price. Of course the Oxycontin is usually prescribed and thus covered by health insurance. Perhaps the character of Teddy is portrayed too broadly as a good-for-nothing so that it is impossible to empathize or identify with him.

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An early novel to look on the lives of the American rich with a skeptical eye was ‘The Great Gatsby’ by F. Scott Fitzgerald. The two writers John Cheever and John Updike used to cover the sleazy mores of these rich suburban communities in their fiction. Rick Moody in his excellent novel ‘The Ice Storm’ covers this same territory. It is a good thing to have a skilled writer like Karolina Waclawiak take up this subject of how the lives of the wealthy aren’t as wonderful as they are cracked up to be.

‘The Invaders’ is a decent entry in this genre. Perhaps it is a little too sincere in its complaints without the necessary irony which would have given it some perspective.

After all, I suspect the country club life still has its attractions for many.

Grade: B+

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7 responses to this post.

  1. By the sound of what you’ve written here, the characterisation does sound a bit one-sided. Heavy-handed critiques, even when I agree with the critique, can be a bit overbearing, unless as you say there is some irony to leaven it. But you say that Waclawiak is a skilled writer, so I guess that’s not a problem?

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    • Hi Lisa,
      How dare you ask me to explain myself? Just kidding. I will attempt to do this difficult task.
      ‘The Invaders’ is a sincere well-written account of a woman’s dissatisfactions with the country club life, especially the members’ tendency to exclude those they don’t want around. Perhaps the most striking criticism of the country club life is her waster son Teddy who I hope is an exaggeration of how bad country club children actually are.
      I just think it would have been better if we had a strong character supporting the country club life who could provide more effective conflict with the woman’s point of view.

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  2. Hm, doesn’t sound quite persuasive despite the skill. A “decent entry” doesn’t quite cut it for me.

    Have you read Claudia Pineiro’s Thursday Night Widows? That pulls apart the country club experience very well indeed. There’s a review at mine and at Guy’s (His Futile Preocupations) and you might be more taken.

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    • Hi Max,
      Thanks for the suggestion. I believe I will read Claudia Piniero’s 2016 novel, ‘Betty Boo’. It appears to also be about the rich life. I do like Country Club novels, being from a poor background nearly opposite to Country Clubs. Loved John Cheever’s fiction.

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