Man of the Year by Lou Cove

I planned on reviewing nothing but horror/thriller novels, but I was so completely blown away by Lou Cove's memoir, I couldn't help myself. Don't miss this one! 

Lou Cove’s ‘Man of the Year’ is a beautifully written and evocative memoir of his strange and unlikely 13th year when a California couple casts something of a magic spell over Lou and his family. But young Lou learns that childhood innocence doesn’t last forever and that shooting stars only light the sky for the briefest moment. 

Lou is hovering somewhere between boyhood and the complex world of a teenager when his family moves from New York City to Salem, Massachusetts. His eighth relocation in twelve years and is setting up to be a downer; that is, until his father’s old friend, Howie Gordon and wife Carly, come to stay with them. Howie is handsome and fun-loving, a hippie philosopher who has just become Playgirl’s Mr. November, 1978. Lou sees in Howie everything he is not, and he is drawn in. Howie appoints him campaign manager in his bid to become Playgirl’s Man of the Year; all Lou has to do is help convince the small Massachusetts town’s grizzled sailors, women’s groups, and witches to cast their reluctant votes for the polyester pinup.

If you bought the book based on the story’s unique and oddball premise, it more than delivers the goods, providing laughs and evoking forgotten memories from the 1970s: music, television, comic books, film and pop culture. But the tenor of the narrative takes a turn in the final third of the book, and Cove leads the unsuspecting reader into an emotionally jarring place.

Despite masquerading as a tale about velour jackets, long hair, and adult magazines, this is a story about becoming a man, and what it means to be a man. Cove isn’t afraid to bare his soul in this memoir, presenting a nuanced account of his complex relationship with his hard-working but emotionally-absent father. He longs for a connection that he cannot bridge, filling that void with Howie. They are two very different men, and only one ends up showing Lou how to be a man. Man of the Year is a must-read for anyone who grew up during the magic era of the 1970s, but it’s also a must-read for men. 

Cove’s writing will move the reader in unforeseen ways, tapping the deepest corners of the heart one moment then pulling a surprise laugh through the building melancholy. There’s an honesty to Cove’s recollections, and he doesn’t hold back when revealing his family’s flaws or even those in his own character. It has been said you live several lives while reading, and Cove has made it difficult to climb back into my own after taking me into his.