I just finished Kate Christensen's The Epicure's Lament and am really excited to recommend it. Read it, y'all.
The book is about a 40-year-old food and cigarette lover, Hugo Whittier who has recently been diagnosed with Baerger's disease. If he doesn't quit smoking, he will die. Life without cigarettes for Hugo is no life at all so he powers through, smoking multiple packs of cigarettes a day, planning for his impending death.
Hugo is obnoxious, annoying, an egomaniac and generally unpleasant, conniving, meddlesome individual. He has no friends to speak of and does his very best to keep his family and relatives at bay. When one after the other his brother, estranged wife, alleged daughter and old uncle slowly trickle back into his life he is pissed that his secluded life of food, smoke, and sexual obsessions is disturbed and does he damn best to push everyone away and deflect attention from his plans to end his life.
I recommend the book because it is insanely suspenseful in a way that it shouldn't be. There are very few surprises along the way but you do find yourself turning the pages wondering what so-and-so would do next and how they all will figure out a way out of the big mess they find themselves in. Also, I was very impressed with Christensen's ability to craft an extremely readable and enjoyable piece of literature out of characters that are not likable AT ALL. Sure, the protagonist is an obvious case of an anti-hero but the plot makes no use of conveniently pleasant crutch-characters that are there to aid him in his way for hopeful salvation.
Photo by Jon Lewis, via PaperMag