Carousel Court: A Novel


A novel of unrelenting tension . . . Phoebe is a lexicon of contradictions, a kind of update on Maria Wyeth of Joan Didion’s Play It as It Lays. McGinniss also recalls Nathanael West’s Day of the Locust in depicting their road, Carousel Court, as a catalog of strangeness and dangers: from coyotes and marauding home invaders to weird neighbors and crying, screaming cicadas. McGinniss . . . injects it with an urgency, a sense of constant, inescapable threat that all adds up to a taut page-turner.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

Propulsive . . . The novel’s nearly 100 vignettes—many of them gems of concision and electric prose that lay bare the darker sides of Nick and Phoebe, as well as the handful of coworkers and eccentric neighbors who swirl down the drain with them—mirror the discontent seething just beneath the surface of an ersatz American dream. . . . McGinniss is at his best when describing, with anthropological intensity, the throes of a broken relationship.”

Publishers Weekly 

“McGinniss (The Delivery Man, 2008) has written a powerful novel  that
may have some readers recalling Yeats’ poem “The Second Coming.” McGinniss’ Serenos, 40 miles east of Los Angeles, is a plausible Ground Zero for a society slouching toward Armageddon. Nature is going biblical: searing heat, threatening wildfires, emboldened coyotes, even a plague of cicadas afflict the town. And society is collapsing: home invasions are increasing, police helicopters roar low and fast over Carousel Court at all hours, and ordinary suburbanites are locked and loaded. Along with Yeats, there are echoes here of Martin Amis’ similarly pre-apocalyptic London Fields (1990).”

Booklist (starred review)

“Flipping a home is stressful. For those of you who don’t regularly watch real estate reality shows, no, we don’t mean picking it up and turning it upside down; we’re talking about buying one and improving it and then selling it for a better price. This is exactly what Nick and Phoebe are trying to do in this new novel from Joe McGinniss Jr., Carousel Court. Nick and Phoebe are married and living in Southern California, but the relationship has been floundering for a while now. The stress of flipping a home has only amplified the existing issues in their union, and their money problems are just making things worse. Soon, foreclosure becomes a very real possibility, and both Phoebe and Nick need to come up with a plan to turn their luck around without turning on one another. This is a dark read, but we think readers will find it totally addictive.”


“Here it is, the leveraged, frayed, unfaithful, buzzed America that all the baloney entertainment products, including a lot that pose as literature, are designed to cover up. Can you handle the truth? Then step inside. This scathing novel of our strange new century is like nothing else I’ve read in years.”

Walter Kirn, author of Up in the Air

“Harrowing, smart, wickedly accurate about the third world of the contemporary United States, and very well written.”

Lionel Shriver, author of We Need to Talk about Kevin and The Mandibles

Carousel Court showcases a domestic circus of the most compelling kind: a kaleidoscopic train-wreck of a marriage set ablaze by the bright white hyperreality of a California suburb in decline. Joe McGinniss Jr. writes with wit and scorching honesty about adultery, addiction, and financial ruin, never losing sight of his characters’ humanity and their fractured hope that redemption might be possible after all.”

Carolyn Parkhurst, author of The Dogs of Babel and Harmon

Carousel Court pulls no punches, taking on nothing less than marriage, and the false promises of our American Dream. These are great big subjects and Joe McGinniss Jr. is more than up to them. Mature and smart and in control of his arsenal, he writes tenderly about family and parenthood, and is every bit as clear-eyed when the subject is underwater mortgages or secret sexting. The result is a hell of a roller coaster. Strap yourself.”

Charles Bock, author of Beautiful Children and Alice and Oliver

“In urgent, kaleidoscopic prose, Joe McGinniss Jr. diagnoses the American Dream with a high fever, jaundice, and severe heartburn. Set in a simmering suburban Los Angeles, Carousel Court is the portrait of a disastrous but thoroughly modern marriage whose young wife, Phoebe Maguire, is hurtling toward a pill-fueled implosion that’s impossible to look away from. The pitch-perfect ending reverberates like a handbell after a hurricane.”

Kate Christensen, author of The Great Man and In the Drink

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Politics and Prose

Simon and Schuster