I’m going to blow the author’s cover here. Jason Richter’s Mating Rituals of Migratory Humans appears, on the surface, to be a Tucker Max-style romp, complete with a sexually adventurous protagonist and appropriately sarcastic prose. (That’s appropriately sarcastic prose—not appropriate prose.) But the spine of the story is something entirely different.
Richter’s novel is set in a small Colorado resort town. The protagonist (who is unnamed) manages a Mexican restaurant and bar. The reader learns that our hero is damaged goods, hiding from the real world by working in the service industry—a subculture that lives at night, long after the rest of us are asleep. (I worked in restaurants for more than 30 years. Richter’s book is—by far—the most realistic portrayal of the service industry I’ve encountered.)
Despite appearances, the protagonist is a consistently moral man, something that’s not readily apparent, given the avalanche of sex and alcohol. Which begs the question—how do you live a moral life in an immoral world?
Partway through the novel, the protagonist butts heads with a pair of rival restaurant owners—two boorish misogynists that give our hero a start. Are they cretins or are they a mirror? Mayhem ensues.
The prose is sharp, clean and cutting. Richter keeps both the internal and external dialogue going without differentiation, which allows two stories to be told—the protagonist’s misadventures and the protagonist’s internal struggle. Transitions between these two conflicts are seamless. The novel’s ending is a brilliant mix of both story lines—inevitable and completely surprising.
In the interest of honesty, I should mention that I know the author. I should also mention that the novel made me laugh out loud dozens of times (and wince or groan in equal measure). I am amazed at Richter’s achievement. He wrote a tale that entertains, astonishes and (please don’t wince or groan here) makes you think. (Five stars out of five)