Mr. Peanut by Adam Ross – Book Review

Mr. Peanut by Adam Ross
Published by Knopf, an imprint of Random House

When David Pepin’s wife is found dead from her peanut allergy, he is immediately suspected of her murder. After all, he was in the room with her when she sat down and ate a plate full of peanuts, knowing full well she was allergic to them, and who would believe that she did it herself to commit suicide? As the investigation progresses, Ross plays with repetition and interweaving of story lines to keep the reader guessing as to what is real, what is not, and how exactly everything will fit together.

“Mr. Peanut” has been getting a lot of love lately, but you’re not going to find any of that here.

Don’t get me wrong, I admired the way that Ross wove his story together. It cannot have been easy to keep all of the threads working together and making something that resembled sense. He is either very gifted or has a fabulous editor (or both, most likely). The creativity of the entire thing was great, really. Part of the problem was one of expectations. As I mentioned, I had been hearing people absolutely rave about this book, calling it a spectacular mindf*ck (essentially, something that twists and turns and comes back to absolutely blow your mind, because you never saw any of it coming). Perhaps it would have been, had I not been expecting to be blown away. As it was, I could admire the cleverness, but nothing particularly shocked me. Not that I necessarily foresaw what was going to happen, but when such things did happen, my response was always more “ah, yes, that makes sense” than “WOW!”

I also had a big problem with the relationships and the way that women were depicted. Many people have called “Mr. Peanut” anti-marriage for the dysfunctional relationships and the way all of the men either contemplate or are accused of killing their wives. He has argued that it is actually pro-marriage and showing that you have to work at it, which I can buy, although that is nothing that ever crossed my mind while reading. I’m not sure what redeeming message was behind the characterizations of the wives, however. The third wife was not so bad, but the first two are the worst stereotype of women in relationships, essentially telling their husbands over and over “if you don’t know, I’m not going to tell you!” when the hapless men inquired as to what was wrong. Their husbands seemed to be working at the relationships while the women were content just to be annoyed and not do anything about it, and, honestly, it really turned me off of the book.

Between the expectation gap and the female characters, I felt pretty profoundly ‘meh’ about “Mr. Peanut.” Yes, Ross’s structuring of the story was top-notch, but it wasn’t quite enough for me – and itself was mitigated by the heavy-handed references to mobius strips that made me feel less valued as a reader, as if I need it to be spelled out for me.  I would advise giving this one a pass, but also being on the lookout for future projects from Adam Ross.

Buy this book from:
A local independent bookstore via Indiebound

This review was done with a book borrowed from the library.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

14 comments to Mr. Peanut by Adam Ross – Book Review

  • Hmm..think I’ll give it a miss! I don’t mind twisty books, but I don’t like them just for that alone. And this sounds like it might drive me slightly crazy.

  • Thanks for this review! I’m not one for hype, and even with it, this didn’t sound like one I’d enjoy. I’ll probably leaf through the first couple of pages to get a feel for it, but as you say, in a book I don’t enjoy being screwed with just for the pleasure of being screwed with.

    Love the honesty.

  • I think I told you that I had this book on order from the library, then I read an interview with the author, then I read a few more reviews, then talked to you, then cancelled the request. I have too many other books to read that don’t include wives with bad attitudes that make ME want to feed them peanuts.

  • I’m happy to see a less-than-stellar review of this book. I tend to think it’s a little weird when a book only gets ecstatic reviews. The premise intrigues me, and it sounds more or less well done, so I may pick it up at some point. (Though the wives sound a bit grating…) If/when I do, though, I’ll keep your review in mind and not set my expectations too high.

  • After your review, I think this probably isn’t for me.

  • Thanks for bringing another point of view to the table on this one. I’m still intrigued, but I might wait a while to get to it.

  • Sam Madsen

    Wow I have to disagree. Couldn’t put it down. Thought the Marilyn Sheppard character was compelling and that the other wives each were struggling because their husbands didn’t understand them so to me it was about the failure of men and their inabilities to understand the wives. Hawaii chapter broke my heart and Sheppard section made me go read about the case. Last chapter made me go watch some Hitchcock movies I haven’t seen. WRITING IS INCREDIBLE!! High recommend!!

    • I totally understand why you’d feel that way. I did think the writing – and particularly the plotting – were quite good, but the women didn’t seem to me to want to be understood and that drove me crazy. Actually, I had a bit of a problem with the Hitchcock section too. It was very interesting, but completely unbelievable as one lecture, and that really pulled me out of the story.

  • I’m sorry to see you didn’t like this one. I first noticed it in the last issue of Bookmarks and immediately reserved it, but my library hasn’t gotten it in yet.

  • You’ve given me a lot to think about with this review! I’m not sure whether I’ll read Mr Peanut or not.

  • I think I have you to thank for my love of this book. I had high expectations and then you lowered them and then the book surpassed them. Expectations can be so important.

    I also think I may have addressed this when you commented on my post, but it didn’t bother me that much that the women were depicted in such an unflattering light because the men were as well. I didn’t see it as an anti-women book at all. I’m not sure I see it as an anti-marriage book either though.

    • I don’t think I’d go so far as to call it ‘anti-woman,’but I think the depiction of women was pretty negative over all. The men at least seemed to be trying to figure out what the problem was, even if belatedly.

  • Thanks for writing a nice, honest review. I’ve heard about this one from all over the place, and it seems to be mostly meh or super-good-awesome-glad-I-read-it. Now I’ll go into it (someday, when the library gets all its copies back from patrons!) like Michelle says: Without too high of expectations.

    That lecture bit seems like it might annoy me.