From the co-creator of "How I Met Your Mother", a debut novel set in New York City, following a sprawling cast of characters as they navigate life, love, loss, ambition, and spirituality—without ever looking up from their phones.
... a stylized, laugh-out-loud funny social satire with devastating aim ... Roxy is just one of the wonderful and absurd creations within Bays’ debut ... a conflagration of cringe, as Bays paints a slightly heightened and terrifying vision of life in our age of distraction. Similar to Patricia Lockwood’s 2021 novel, No One is Talking About This, Bays’ novel sometimes replicates the thought processes of a brain addled by the overstimulation of the internet and omnipresent media: run-on sentences, a litany of random bits of information hitting the reader from multiple sources and a narrative that bounces from one topic to another with abandon ... More than anything else though, the nearly 500-page novel explores people bumping into one another and deciding if they have what it takes to make it stick. And because the book is poised for laughs and broad humor, its painful, critical sections hit harder ... dwells at the corner of restless and randomness, displacement and dissatisfaction. The narrative is full of stray thoughts and chance encounters, everything fleeting and devastating. All told, it’s riveting.
... an imaginatively tender and uncannily exact tale of life on the internet ... While the world of New York City twentysomethings is a well-trod premise, The Mutual Friend is vast in scope, startling in its precise capture of the reality of intertwined digital lives, and satisfies its ambition with an unexpected humanity and vulnerability. The reader is regaled with many humorous yet believable twenty-first-century scenarios like searching for romance on dating apps, navigating the world of 'tech bros,' or walking into a pole owing to too much focus on a smartphone, all described with palpable tenderness and introspection. The semiomniscient narrator details vignettes that range from warm and charming moments between friends to jarringly accurate depictions of life online. Bays explores millennialism through a lens that is equal parts realistic and larger than life, deftly parsing through the many ways our digital lives create ripples through our real ones.
Bays was a co-creator of the sitcom How I Met Your Mother so it’s no surprise his novel is highly comic—sometimes darkly so ... What is surprising is how beautifully written it is and how deftly the author balances humor and heartbreak. Bays writes with real compassion that never turns sentimental, and the structure of the book, told from the point of view of a mysterious omniscient narrator, is ingenious. This is a rare thing: an original, intelligent novel that’s not just a perfect summer beach read, but one that deserves serious awards consideration as well. Put down your phone and pick it up ... A major accomplishment.