I typically don’t do a lot of fiction book reviews. Most of the books I read tend to be biography, improve-yourself-somehow non-fiction, or something-randomly-historical non-fiction. Most of my books also tend to be focused on living the good life somehow. The Retail by Joshua Danker-Dake is a very funny fictional story that is probably the antithesis of all that. Since the main character’s choices are such a sharp contrast to what I aspire to create with my life and my blog, it somehow seems appropriate just to remind me why I am doing what I am doing. It is sort of like saying, “See that left road up there? Yeah, well don’t take it.”
The Retail is a satire on modern American under-employment. Penn, the main character, gets a job at a home improvement store which all but destroys his life. It is so funny and yet I find it also disturbingly sad. Penn, like so many millennials (50% according to some statistics), is just finishing college and stuck in a dead-end retail job that has nothing to do with his degree. The absurdity of his everyday existence, especially his various customers and co-workers, nearly had me laughing so hard I was in tears. The continual observations on the weirdness of the retail world and work policy was also fascinating and angered me. The characters, like in Jane Austin novels, are parodies of real people in such an artful way as to be so hilariously ridiculous and yet I might be able to name people who are exactly the same way. Underlying all of this, Penn has to learn that his passivity towards his life and needs is actually his main foe not just the job. The micro-managing head manager, the lazy supervisor, the polices that don’t make any sense, and even the unfairness of having no insurance may have been less of an issue had Penn pro-actively searched for solutions and even actively applied for more jobs. At the same time, as many current job searchers know, sometimes it doesn’t really matter what you do, you’re still stuck. That reality is what made me completely understand Penn’s emotional struggle and made this book so compelling. In some ways, the battle of the main character against the pointlessness of his position sort of reminds me of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
In conclusion, this book was not only fun to read, but also gave me much to think about. I highly recommend it. I will be wondering what choices would have helped the characters in this book for weeks to come.