Holy Water

      James P. Othmer

Holy Water

Henry Tuhoe is the quintessential twenty-first-century man. He has a vague, well-compensated job working for a multinational conglomerate.  He has a beautiful wife and an idyllic home in the suburbs.  But things change when Henry’s boss offers him a choice: go to the tiny, about-to-be-globalized Kingdom of Galado to oversee the launch of a new customer-service call center for a bottled water company, or lose the job with no severance, Henry takes the transfer.  Once in Galado, a land both spiritual and corrupt, Henry wrestles with first-world moral conundrums, the attention of a megalomaniacal monarch, and a woman intent on redeeming both his soul and her country.

From Publishers Weekly

The latest from Othmer (The Futurist) reads like a very contemporary Heart of Darkness run through the satire blender. Longtime company man Henry Tuhoe has a self-absorbed wife who is learning witchcraft and pressuring him to have a vasectomy; he's increasingly alienated from his friends, and is forced to decide between getting fired or accepting a new position opening a call center in an obscure Third World country called Galado. So he takes the job. That the call center doesn't have working telephones or employees who can speak English are just a couple of Henry's concerns in a plot that bounces between everyday realism and the absurd. His new workplace is as morally and spiritually corrupt as the corporate culture back home, and Henry makes it his personal humanitarian mission to help provide clean water to Galado's poorest citizens. Othmer wrings humor from nearly every facet of contemporary culture, with many of the most comical moments taking place in brief anecdotes (as with a Gulf War I re-enactor). It's well-done satire—dark, but not too—in the vein of Gary Shteyngart and early Colson Whitehead. (June)
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From Booklist

Former adman Othmer follows his memoir, Adland (2009), with his second novel. Henry Tuhoe, vice president of underarm research for an antiperspirant maker, is paralyzed by self-doubt after an ill-advised move to the suburbs. Then his department is eliminated and he’s transferred to the tiny kingdom of Galado on the Indian-Chinese border, where he’s to oversee a call center for a Vermont-based bottled-water company. Unfortunately, Galado’s own water is a toxic stew, and, ironically, plastic bottles are forbidden. Worse, the country is a kleptocracy run by a steroid-crazed prince whose grandiose dreams of multinational investment are threatened by popular rebellion. Othmer is a sharp and intelligent writer, offering scathing takes on the realities of global commerce and the myopia of wealthy nations. But he’s frustrating, too. The book opens with a piece of bravura absurdity—a corporate outing on a burning river—but never quite regains that intensity. When it comes to novelistic housekeeping, he’s too conservative and the story loses momentum. It’s a good book. But, one suspects, if Othmer went truly gonzo, he might write something great. --Keir Graff

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