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