To be poor in America is to constantly be aware of how close you are to empty ... It’s fitting that each chapter of Guanzon’s relentless novel begins with the amount of money Henry has: Unexpected expenses, over the course of one day, torpedo Henry’s careful plans toward upward mobility in an excruciating slow-motion cascade ... This is worthy but heavy stuff, and the novel occasionally staggers under the weight. Henry feels more like the sum of his identities — father, felon, half-Filipino — than a fully-fleshed character, consumed by his fears of turning into his own embittered immigrant dad. Instead, what Abundance captures is how mundane poverty is, and how psychologically punishing.
A novel of suspense that follows Henry’s attempt to hold things together for the interview in spite of the obstacles—illness, malnutrition, vagrancy laws, thieves, scammers and any of a thousand small, unforeseen expenses—that make every day a tightrope act ... Mr. Guanzon has also chosen to widen his story through lengthy interspersed flashbacks recounting Henry’s marriage, his fateful friendship with a small-time drug pusher and his struggles to rehabilitate after his prison term. The context fleshes out Henry’s active role in his poverty—he’s not simply a random victim of the system—but it seriously diffuses the tension of the scenes in the razor’s-edge present. The writing suffers in the shift from particularities to the kind of artsy, metaphor-laden exposition cultivated in creative-writing programs ... Ultimately, this promising first novel can feel curiously loose and profligate, as though it might have learned more from the punishing discipline that is all that separates Henry from disaster.
An impressive debut tells of a Midwestern father on the brink of destitution and his grim efforts to survive ... The novel’s structure works well to track the legacy and persistence of bad choices and how they whittle down options in lives that didn’t have many to start with. Guanzon tends to overwrite, but he can be eloquent regarding Henry’s hard, hungry struggle ... An imperfect but compelling picture of poverty, desperation, and pain.