Book Review: Faith by Raphael Frumkin


Targeted advertising will be delivered to your feed. The algorithm knows that because you’ve read an article about the holistic benefits of cordyceps or watched a video about biohacking, you’re interested in this topic. It’s a small device, a sleek and photogenic array of magnets, lights, and sensors that can guide you through a process called “synthesis” to let go of past trauma and free you into true enlightenment. It is called Bliss-Mini.

You want to enlighten. Clicking on the embedded link will load the home page. Welcome to NuLife, it says. Welcome to the Goop-meets-Theranos-meets-Heaven’s-Gate artificial health empire at the center of Raphael Frumkin’s new novel Confidence.

Like many great capers, “Faith” begins with a scrappy flaw that diminishes his happiness. Frumkin’s narrator, the prickly but vulnerable Ezra Greene, was born poor; He is visually impaired and ends up in a reform camp after one of his quick money schemes seriously injures a classmate. It is there that he meets fellow vultures Orson Ortman, the handsome and magnetic Jay Gatsby, to Nick Carraway, rich in contraband weed and easy charm. For Ezra, it was love at first sight. We don’t know what’s in store for Orson, even after they start sleeping together.

The two take increasingly greater risks to support themselves until Orson invents something called “synthesis,” a scientifically dubious form of pseudo-hypnosis. Synthesis con becomes a corporation and cultural spiritual collective called NuLife. At the top of NuLife, Orson leads a community of dedicated disciples while Ezra does the dirty work of running their billion dollar company. All this to get a loan from one percent.

Sybil Berg’s Grime is a wicked satire about where we’re headed

Ezra’s poignant story dazzles celebrity-driven wellness buffs, empty-eyed business tycoons and Silicon Valley crooks with the brutal grit of an episode of “The Inheritance.” Amidst Frumkin’s dark and sharp humor is an Elon Musk-like billionaire inventor who distributes drones to children begging for money, and Orson as “L. Ron Hotboy.”

But it’s under this salty, toothy crust that Frumkin does his most complex and compelling work: breaking down Ezra’s moral fabric.

At the beginning of the novel, Ezra claws at his world with an honest hunger and an understandable, if sometimes pedantic, hatred of his superiors.

He’s a millennial Robin Hood, pausing occasionally to wonder if he’s gone too far. In this economy, we want to root for the guy who wants to screw over rich idiots. Ezra is in our late-rental fantasy. He steals what he needs – deserve – he doesn’t even miss, if he forgets his humanity for a moment, it must be an accident.

But as the human toll of his schemes add up, we begin to see what Ezra can’t do (literally, his eyesight is failing). We think we know a story of liberation when we see it, and by definition we think it is morally good. Credibility prompts us to ask: What if our hero isn’t a good person? What if we knew this but Ezra didn’t? And what happens when an unreliable moral compass enters the magnetic field of a narcissist like Orson?

Orson is a genius, a seer, a magician, a god with a golden secret. Even if he had never risen from con man to cult leader, he would still be all that to Ezra, as clinging narcissists find them to be subhumanly violent in the eyes of those who love them.

Ezra’s narrowed view has no room for anything but Orson and his diminished emotional returns. There’s no point in noticing that she praises Ezra only for his flaws, or that Ezra’s NuLife assignments keep him distant from Orson and close to recrimination, or that her dream of capturing Orson’s attention long enough to marry her will never come true. take up.

It’s a poetic punch to the heart when you finally wonder if Ezra could be Orson’s first sign. How pathetic, how sad, how romantic that Ezra is Orson’s biggest con and the last one he knows.

Additional book reviews and recommendations

“Faith” asks the reader to compare passion with greed, genius with narcissism, and love with addiction. Yes, Frumkin does this by holding up an unflattering mirror to billionaires, fraudulent startups, and the wellness industrial complex, but he does it by deepening our belief in morality. How easy would it be to lose under the right circumstances? If we notice, will we notice? Or will we be like Ezra: too sure he’s still a good guy, doing bad things for good reasons to see the truth?

“Faith” as a crime novel a face-turning, devouring face-turner that pushes you to satisfy your cravings for a well-done caper. As the criminal, Ezra Green learns the hard way what you eat after the staff cleans the gilded china.

Casey McQuiston is an author of novels.Red, white and royal blue,” “One last stop” and “I loved Shara Wheeler.”

Simon and Schuster. 320 pages. $27.99

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