Stockboy Nation by author Thomas Duffy is about life, career and searching for love at middle-age during our tumultuous era of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic. Although a sequel to Stockboy (2013), the first is unnecessary to follow the plot of this novel.
Phillip Doherty has recently moved from his hometown of New York City to San Diego, CA, with his demanding fiancée Melissa. In the wake of publishing a poorly reviewed fantasy novel, he needs employment. Melissa, who works at a law firm, is tired of being his “sugar mama” and relentlessly nags him to contribute to their cost of living. She gives him a deadline to find a job, regardless of if it does not satisfy his career goals. Only after that accomplishment will she be amenable to planning their wedding — or even kissing him again. Thus motivated, Phillip begins his arduous job-hunt journey.
Between attempts to work for a high-profile clothing company and a movie review website, among other colorful ventures, he meets LeAnn, a sociology teacher at the local community college. She sparks his interest, and when they meet again by chance, he realizes that Melissa might not be “the one.”
Phillip reluctantly takes a job stocking supplies during the overnight shift at Milton’s World of Fun, a novelty bookstore. Here we encounter a cast of diverse characters, most notably a ladies’ man who becomes Phillip’s road-trip buddy when he abruptly decides to return to the Big Apple. There, he continues his struggle over which woman might best fulfill his happiness.
This straightforward narrative offers insight into the emotional toll of job hunting during a man’s middle-age years. Any reader who has struggled with the employment market or relationship disappointments will identify with Phillip’s yearning for a meaningful life. His daily activities reflect loneliness and frustration, the result of men’s worth being defined by their work status. Duffy, a veteran author, has a knack for authenticity that approaches memoir, causing readers to wonder if the novel is autobiographical.
The story also pushes to a deeper level about how depressing it is to stock items made by others while stuck in a rut. Phillip’s meaningless work represents the greater problems of corporate dominance and materialist priorities in America today. Nonetheless, Duffy lends us courage and hope in the face of such a product-peddling culture. Stockboy Nation should appeal to readers of social commentary and philosophical, memoir-like fiction.
Visit Thomas Duffy’s BookTrib author profile page.