Novel depicts frustrated lives

In his latest release, "Six Figures," newcomer Fred Leebron has created a captivating novel with a storyline deeply rooted in modern day reality.

The novel, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, follows the life of Warner Lutz, a 33-year-old fund-raiser for a not-for-profit organization. Lutz has recently moved with his wife, Megan, and his two young children to Charlotte, N.C. -- a town that has began to boom overnight with new money. Lutz feels out of place in the southern community, especially when he takes a step back to realize he isn't on the receiving end of the growing affluence.

Stuck in a dead-end job, crammed into a small town house and driving a Honda that has seen better days, Lutz is beginning to wonder how he got where he is -- and whether or not he wants to be there any longer.

Within the first few sections of the novel, it is apparent that Leebron is an author who makes an immense effort to delve into the psyche of his characters. The opening scene of the book probes the mind of a tense Lutz, trying to maintain a hold on his squirming son, Daniel, while he waits in line with Megan to vote in a congressional race he cares little about.

Leebron's talented ability to capture the moment -- along with Lutz's jaded view of the world and what it has in store for him -- is maintained from the first moment we meet the temperamental protagonist until the book's conclusion over 200 pages later.

What becomes almost too real about Leebron's newest work is how Warner Lutz could be any college graduate beginning his or her life in the so-called real world. His disgust at living the nine-to-five lifestyle -- where life revolves around work, picking up the kids from daycare and struggling to catch a few hours of sleep before a screaming toddler wakes you in the middle of the night -- is a scenario that, for most students, will become all too familiar within the next five to 10 years.

The novel quickly becomes more than a tale of a mediocre middle-class man dreaming of a six-figure salary when Megan is attacked on a January afternoon while at work. Soon after the assault occurs, friends, co-workers and even Lutz's family begin to view him as the prime suspect of the attack on his wife. Known for his hostile temperament and a history of striking out against others in the past, Lutz's life soon becomes a blur of questions, allegations and remarkably believable suspense.

As the novel concludes, Lutz must face up to incidents he has long since forgotten in his life. Along with facing up to his past, Lutz must maintain a grip on reality by facing up to his responsibilities as a husband and father in a family he cares more for than he has ever stopped to realize.

In the end, Warner Lutz discovers he has struck out at the times he has felt most wounded in life, and reaches a conclusion that -- despite its obviousness -- is one many Americans often struggle to realize.

Life -- in all its short sweetness -- is more than money, work and lusting after what one can never obtain. The love Lutz discovers within the bonds of his marriage and his strengths as a father is enough to help him realize that he can no longer feel sorry about himself. Experience deems to show us, and Leebron has so brilliantly captured the thought in "Six Figures," that life is worth more when one lives for the bittersweet moments that are so often taken for granted.


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