Publisher: Penguin Press
Veblen (named after the iconoclastic economist Thorstein Veblen, who coined the term “conspicuous consumption”) is not quite liberated from the burdens of her hypochondriac, narcissistic mother and her institutionalized father, Veblen is an amateur translator and “freelance self”; in other words, she’s adrift. Meanwhile, Paul—the product of good hippies who were bad parents—finds his ambition soaring. His medical research has led to the development of a device to help minimize battlefield brain trauma—an invention that gets him swept up in a high-stakes deal with the Department of Defence.
As Paul is swept up by the promise of fame and fortune, Veblen heroically keeps the peace between all the damaged parties involved in their upcoming wedding, until she finds herself falling for someone—or something—else.
Squirrels rule the world! Well not really but they should. The Portable Veblen is a very busy book. This might sound like a weird description but there is so much happening with so many words I often had to put it down just to give my mind time to process.
Veblen is a young woman who does not seem to know what she wants but is headstrong at other things. She needs to take care of her mother who is weird and has always been. Her father who is hospitalized and she herself is not so sure about her mental health as she tends to talk to squirrels. All her doubts and they way she is navigating the world is tiring but she is doing it in a kind of innocent way that I as a reader was only hoping she would make it trough the end of the story in one peace, happy and a bit more convinced about herself.
Paul is having similar problems with his weird family but he clearly made other decisions. Fighting for himself on the border of being selfish. His love for Veblen is on the border of an obsession and his anger control is seriously lacking. He is driven to become a better man but on the material site mostly where Veblen just wants the peace and quiet.
All the problems with their families is a lot. There is not a normal person in the story to hold on to. They all seem flawed till no end and cannot seem to make a normal decision or act normal for most of the book. There is the whole story about Paul and his invention that is a side story but of big influence of what is happening. There is a lot of talking about Thorstein Veblen and the influence his ideas had on Veblen and her life. It is a lot and chaotic and switching between the voices of Paul and Veblen they are so much the same and still so different it exhausted me. Still I did finish the book. In a way I was enthralled to see how much the characters where alike and not seeing it.