Undercover angel

It’s normal to hit your first midlife crisis at age 25, right? You suddenly realize that life is overwhelming, and you haven’t done all that you wanted to do, and so you take to your bed. Then, in a day or two, you get up and get on with life. Except that’s not what happens in David Whitehouse’s debut, Bed: A Novel. Instead, Mal, an odd duck to start with, takes to his bed and refuses to get up. He spends the next 20 years in bed—eating—which results in some rather large proportions for Mal, as well as a cultlike following. The urge to withdraw from life may be common, but it’s rare that the urge is followed through with such passion and reflection. Narrated by his younger brother—whose life is completely upended by Mal’s bed-bound life—this is more than the story of one dysfunctional man. Instead, the helplessness of modernity encompasses his entire family.