What do an irresponsible philanthropist, a naive hipster, two frumpy exhibitionists, a besieged civil servant and a reluctant heiress have in common?
They’re all drawn to the magnetic personality of a bawdy, over-the-top, Rhode Island multi-millionaire with a mysterious past-Nathanial Pike, the unfathomable protagonist of Mike Heppner’s Pike’s Folly.
Heppner treats us to a biting social satire with more than a dash of heart. Readers of Pike’s Folly will probably laugh, possibly cry, and definitely empathize with the plight of these slightly twisted, 21st century Everymen.
One by one, Heppner’s oddball cast of marvelously crafted characters embark on the quest for a meaningful life, but it’s how they try to get there that lends the story its charm.
“The only things worth doing are pointless things,” declares Nathanial Pike. “Because if there’s a point? Then that’s all there is to it.” And so Rhode Island’s foremost eccentric embarks on his greatest folly yet – erecting a fully functional parking lot on an inaccessible mountaintop in New Hampshire.
Pike struggles to fend off resistance from various activist groups and Henry Savage, a bitter and unspectacular bureaucrat. Pike’s assistant, Stuart Breen, struggles to balance his wife Marlene’s fetish for public nudity with his own sense of decency. And Stuart also serves as a spiritual guide to Heath Baxter, an aspiring independent filmmaker and the boyfriend of basket-case Allison Reese, while her father, the secretly gay gazillionaire, Gregg Reese, tries to save his numerous philanthropic efforts from bankruptcy.
With a plotline more convoluted than a Picasso portrait, Pike’s Folly is certainly an ambitious venture; to Heppner’s credit, he pulls it off without a hitch.
In spite of all their personal differences and individual oddities, the characters surrounding Pike are drawn together by their mutual quest for a life truly worth living. Each and every one of them strives for some sort of meaning, a sense that at the end of the day they’ve at least done something worthwhile.
To this end, they pursue drugs, philanthropy, sexual deviation, an obsession with the Beach Boys, and a host of other outlets. In the end, however, it’s through each other that these loveable, off-the-wall personalities find what they’re looking for.
Pike’s Folly never really comes to an end. Though the pages run out, there is no real resolution – only a strangely comforting sense of completeness. Somehow, Heppner’s words penetrate directly to the heart, and as the chapters fly by, an inexplicable warm glow develops somewhere deep inside the reader.
What the characters of Pike’s Folly really share – what we all really share – is a need for meaning. Stepping back from the emotionally congested world of the 21st century, Mike Heppner shows us that the meaning is always there: in your family, in your friends, in the people you meet on the street and watch on TV. In other words, it’s there in all of us.
Peter Chomko can be reached at email@example.com.