This book goes down like a quaffable wine—easy and engaging, if not terribly complex. Mr Barbash has a habit of spoon-feeding his themes with somewhat unlikely dialogue, such as when Anton’s sister warns him that “it’s [Buddy’s] life story you’re writing, and pretty soon you’ve got to begin writing your own”. Those who recall spending their early 20s as self-conscious buffoons may tire of Anton’s relentless winning—at work, romantically and so on. It is not for nothing that the most beloved protagonists tend to be outsiders and losers, or bigshots who fall from grace.
Still, Mr Barbash recreates an inviting world. And he observes clearly the insidious human tendency to turn people into idols, only to topple them.
Tom Barbash’s dark and humorous second novel takes a risk by combining invented and real characters. I feared nagging doubts about what was ‘true’. However, it absolutely succeeds.... British readers may not recognise all the sports and media personalities with bit parts, but this is a minor quibble about a thoroughly enjoyable book. Barbash’s short story collection, Stay Up With Me (2013) depicted the quiet, often sad dramas of ‘ordinary’ people; The Dakota Winters illuminates the transience and tragedies of those who achieve fame.
Loafing around Central Park, Anton Winter at his best can keep Holden Caulfield company with his witty, tragicomic story that’s richly observed and though-provoking long after you finish. In creating his confessional story of a famous father's son and his lucky chance to become Lennon's friend, Tom Barbash lets Buddy’s son 'out Buddy’ Buddy, finding emotional frankness with a captive audience of perfect strangers. It’s not to be missed.