Written just before The Average American Marriage, Chad Kultgen’s Men Women & Children explores the lives of not only a couple of high school students, but it also explores the lives of their parents and is for the most part a book about life at it’s core. Chad’s book doesn’t beat around the bushes, it’s exactly what you’d expect from human existence and reads so true to the nature of human living that you’d think that somewhere in America, these people are real and he’s merely asked them for their biographies. Compared to AMM and it’s sequel, this novel is exponentially thick and takes a little more time to get through. It took me about a month’s time to fully finish the novel and that was just due to it’s length. At first I thought that the book might have been too long and drawn out until I cam to the realization that the character development effects the outcome of each of these young people and their parents in the book’s denouement.
The book reads as a sort of grown-up soap opera, something that should be made for television and pitched to HBO. I very much found myself interested in Tim Mooney’s betrayal of football for the popular MMO, World Of Warcraft and additionally due to a Noam Chomsky documentary (of which I haven’t seen) called Manufacturing Content. He began to realize life as insignificant, that nothing really mattered – until he met Brandy Beltmeyer. Brandy’s story is not at all far-fetched, she’s the typical “my mother’s overprotective so I have all of this pent-up sexual frustration and the urge to rebel by dressing up goth and making up an alternate personality” kind of gal that you might have run into in high school. I remember those types. At any rate, Brandy’s mother Patricia is one of the many things wrong with our society; one of those women who watches talk shows that are directly catered to her and soaks up every piece of pseudo-knowledge, for example the online predator threat which reads out to her as “My child’s in danger! My child’s in danger!” so she forms a group called PATI or Parents Against The Internet which I do understand the purpose of, yet she’s far too out of her gourd to run such a group seriously. Most of the other parents involved didn’t really seem to be all that worried about their teenager’s internet usage, at least not as much as Patricia. As a matter of fact, this is where Kent Mooney (Chris’s father) meets up with Dawn Clint for the first time, a woman who might be able to make him forget about his wife (who in all actuality seems to have been caged while she was with him and is now a free spirit under the mysterious Greg Cherry) even though Dawn is secretly operating a website which displays provocative images of her teen daughter Hannah for a bevy of perverts who have been paying untold sums of money to see what in a nutshell is soft-core child pornography. Despite the fact that none of the images show anything too racy, the site is still far too much for the reality show that her daughter signs up for and is almost accepted onto.
These are just a few of the many stories that intertwine into what I would consider a natural observation of our human society. Yet there is still more to this story, as it involves the sexual relations of Chris Truby and Hannah Clint showcasing her disapproval with Chris’s learned fetishism from the internet (is it really nature or environment?) which seems to kill their sex life, but the pressure that amounts from having sex before high school is far too great for her to not oblige these perverse sexual experiments. Allison Doss is another story worth mentioning, as she exposes the real-life culture of people who literally stand for anorexia and bulimia and support it. This isn’t anything Chad came up with out of the blue, just type it into Google and you’ll find the results of the search to be all too real. Models do starve themselves – it was just recently released in the news that some have been eating tissue and there are always new ways to stay thin appearing on the horizon, so I don’t expect this to change as long as people desire for these cosmetic ideals. It was in all reality, quite sick to see how she would access these blogs and forums getting praise for her slow emaciation as her eventual switch from anorexia to bulimia occurs later in the book. Then of course there’s Don Truby and Rachel Truby; Chris’s unaware parents who are too busy cheating on each other to notice that their son is having sex with Hannah Clint in all sorts of obtuse ways. Rachel discovers the real affair siteAshleyMadison.com and Don discovers a site called TheEroticReview.com (which I’m not sure if this one is real or not) which has reviews and information, as well as pictures of prostitutes. Rachel finds a black man who goes by the name of Secretluvur and Don finds a woman who resembles the porn star he’s been excited with (Stoya) in the form of Angelique Ice.
However, the truth of the matter is that all of these things that seem so obtuse and surreal actually exist. Just as Danny Vance (which I admittedly skipped through most of the football portions, not being that familiar with the game itself even though the beginning of WD1 was about BH2 and the football players who were injecting it) and his relationship with Brooke Benton, which wound up in accidental miscarriage. These are real things that happen to people, some of them you and I know. But if there’s anything I will take out of this novel, it’s the fact that it mentions this generation as the very first “internet generation” in that every moment of life will be displayed on the internet. Who runs the internet? Corporations. Who controls our Facebook pages when we die? You guessed it. Corporations.
But that isn’t going to stop us, as we are the first age of people completely connected in all respects. Men Women & Children is most definitely the kind of book that a future civilization could pick up just to examine how we once lived. Even if it is a work of fiction, the topics presented in this book are starkly true and it’s full of everything that none of us would ever want to believe or recognize as being factual… but like a car crash, it’s impossible to turn away from this novel and it’s no holds barred approach to human civilization in the current century.
I recommend Men Women & Children, but exercise a sharp word of caution: Be aware that what you’re about to read is not for the faint of heart. This one’s even rougher than The Average American Marriage!
Rating: A great read at 9/10! One of the most interesting books I’ve ever read by far.