Book Review: Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates

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4.5/5 Stars.

“Nowhere in these plans had he foreseen the weight and shock of reality.”

Do you like relentlessly depressing books? Okay, cool, me too. Let me introduce you to Frank and April Wheeler, the married couple at the center of Revolutionary Road.

Set in the 1950s, Revolutionary Road takes place in a time when people clung tightly to traditional gender roles and believed deeply in the American dream. And on the surface, Frank and April have it all. They’ve built a life together in an affluent suburban community. They have a two beautiful children and a nice group of friends. Frank is even eying a promotion at his dull New York City office job.

The only problem, of course, is that the Wheelers don’t actually want what April at one point refers to as the “enormous, obscene delusion” of suburban family life. The Wheelers — April in particular — feel trapped in the hopeless emptiness of their mundane existence, and their mutual dissatisfaction gradually destroys not only their marriage, but their sense of self.

Revolutionary Road is full of heavy, brutal, heart-wrenching dialogue between Frank and April, but the character who really stands out is John Givings, the mentally ill adult son of one of their friends. John serves as the unexpected voice of reason, outwardly condemning that same hopeless emptiness against which Frank and April quietly struggle, yet at the same time exposing the weaknesses and vulnerabilities at the heart of their inevitable downfall.

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