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The Program, a novel by Hal Niedzviecki
The Program is a unique work of stark humour and pathos that seduces its readers into the world of advertising guru Maury Stern. Through chain restaurants, forest reserves, Zionist summer camps, abandoned amusement parks and eastern European shtetls, the novel chases a mystery: what happened to Maury’s son, Danny, the night he was left alone with his uncle.
Funny, fallible and lost, Maury blows up his life attempting to find the answer. His monster brother, the bogeyman of Danny’s childhood, has gone missing: is Maury still his brother’s keeper? His mum, Bubby Stern, is plugging her brain with the contents of American soap operas to avoid the secret she has carried since her girlhood: why can’t Maury be a good son and make her happy? When a simple camping trip with Danny turns into another horror show, Maury takes one look at the reproach in his wife’s eyes and runs away.
Staggering under the weight of everyone’s desire for him to please be normal again, the wounded Danny can’t tackle the mystery of himself directly. Instead he disappears into the computer lab where he writes The Program — as a way to an alternative reality where the conflicting agendas of past, present and future may be resolved.