The characters in The Second Virtue explore the crannies of courage and find various aspects reflected in their lives. “Courage isn’t about overcoming your self. It’s about being yourself,” Telli Trujillo, an eccentric phone-store clerk observes. Telli should know — he survived a horrifying bank robbery only to have the memoriestorment him so he switches from job to job to remain in it what was the bank lobby but becomes a beauty parlor, insurance office, tanning parlor, phone store. He is rife with idiosyncrasies (buys his shoes too large and rotates them like tires) but can’t find himself for his own memories. “Confidence in yourself no matter what you’re up against, that’s true courage,” Telli advises, but he can’t find any self confidence so long as his tormenter lives.
“Being spontaneous. That’s what courage is all about,” says Joy Juneau, receptionist at the Perlmutter Institute, a school that teaches courage, or claims to. Joy’s natural impetuosity is a casualty of her overbearing and abusive boss, the shifty Drew Perlmutter. Freeing herself from his domination proves impossible until she breaks out in a flurry, kicking his ass until both her legs are broken. “Somebody had to do it. So now, I did it, and it’s done. Except I didn’t connect, not really. If I had, hard as I was kicking, it would have taken the Jaws of Life to pry my foot out of his ass,” she frets, but the blow connects well enough. Exhilarated in her liberation, she plunges into a
romantic encounter on the grass of Lincoln Park. The security guard there thinks to intervene but can’t comprehend two stark white casts waving over the shrubbery. A giant white rabbit, he concludes, and decides his wages aren’t enough to warrant becoming involved.
Drew Perlmutter spews quotations defining courage like a runaway dictionary (“Grace under fire, isn’t it?”) but confuses courage with fearlessness and heroics with bullying. He learns his lesson the hard way when three students turn on him and bury his desk under a steaming mound of chicken shit.
The list goes on: Donald Duffy, high school boy kept in lingering adolescence by his overbearing mother; Lisa Chisholm, orphan raised motherless to stride into life with no female role model. The characters in The Second Virtue confront their fears and consider what they need to conquer their demons, both internal and external. Their narrative moves at a brisk pace, often funny, sometimes poignant, and consistently thought-provoking. You’ll love this book!