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Make Russia Great Again

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Politics aside, Buckley is a great writer.  Politics-not aside, this book is a witty take on Washington stereotypes.
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Christopher Buckley is a master satirist who takes aim at Trump's 2020 election in this book. There were some genuinely funny parts, and I really liked the long-suffering narrator, Herb Nutterman, who thought he had finally earned retirement from the corporate empire only to be pulled into the revolving door of White House staff. However, the satire just isn't that far removed from real world absurdity in this case, so I think readers who fall into the far ends of the political spectrum pro- or anti-Trump won't find it funny, but those in the middle might. 

Thanks to the publishers and NetGalley for the opportunity to review a digital ARC in exchange for an unbiased review.
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Published by Simon & Schuster on July 14, 2020

I hurried to finish Make Russia Great Again because after the election it might lose its relevance entirely. While other novels have taken shots at a fictional Trump, it seems doubtful that any of them will be remembered after Trump is gone. Making fun of Trump is the nightly sport of talk show hosts, but they’ll move on in January if Biden wins. I suspect readers will do the same. Nobody wants to revisit a nightmare.

As the (not so failing) New York Times noted, the difficulty with satirizing the Trump administration is that reality outpaces fiction. By the time this book made it to market, Trump had found new ways to self-destruct that even the most masterful satirist would have been unable to imagine.

Make Russia Great Again takes place shortly before the 2020 election. Some characters (like Trump and Pompeo) are real, others are thinly disguised. Sean Hannity is Seamus Colonnity, Ivanka is Ivunka and she’s married to Jored, Pence is Pants, Graham is Biskitt, etc.

The novel’s narrator is Herbert K. Nutterman, who rose through the management ranks at various Trump properties before Trump tapped him to become the new chief of staff. Two storylines, other than the upcoming election, drive the plot. First, an American computer program called Placid Reflex autonomously hacked the Russian election and gave the Communist candidate a landslide victory in the first round of voting. Putin isn’t pleased but doesn’t immediately suspect Trump who is, after all, in Putin’s pocket.

Second, a Russian oligarch and Trump buddy named Oleg Pishinsky is widely suspected of causing the demise of an American journalist who investigated his molybdenum empire and other shady endeavors. Responding to those suspicions, Congress passed a law that disadvantages Oleg’s desire to sell molybdenum to the United States. Oleg wants Trump to get it rescinded. If Trump says no, Oleg will release videos of Trump having sex with each contestant of Miss Universe 2013 after promising each the crown. Oleg also did away with a contestant who wasn’t satisfied with being paid off, a crime that might look bad for Trump. Unfortunately for Trump, Congress isn’t buying his pitch that the US has a desperate need for molybdenum, an element that Trump can’t pronounce.

There are moments of genuine humor in the novel. I particularly enjoyed Trump’s response when the videos begin to leak. He changes “Make America Great Again” to “Make America Hard Again,” an improvement that his loyal base embraces. The Evangelicals, of course, look away without wavering in their support.

While the story is fun, some of Nutterman’s observations — about, for example, the “liberal mainstream media” obsession with reporting true facts rather than alternative facts — fall flat because they really aren’t satirical at all. Much of the book depicts Trump as he is, without the exaggeration that defines satire. Trump and his echo chamber entourage might be clownish but they aren’t all that funny.

The book does have a prescient quality, if only because Trump is predictable. Without knowing who the Democratic nominees would be, Buckley has the president condemning them as socialists, a label that Trump and uninformed inhabitants of the fringe have tried without success to pin on Biden. Since Buckley didn’t know who the candidates would be, Buckley has Trump calling them Loser One and Loser Two — which is admittedly Trumpish.

The book was written before the pandemic (which, Trump just assured us, is over), a fact that detracts from both its relevance and its satirical punch. Trump’s real sins are much worse than the sins Buckley imagines, a reality that compromises the ability to laugh at Trump’s foibles.

Having said that, Make Russia Great Again does deliver a steady diet of chuckles and an occasional full-bellied laugh. Trump’s fans won’t like it and might even hold a book burning, although that would require them to actually buy the book, which seems unlikely. If Trump wins reelection, readers who want to laugh after they finish crying might want to spend time with it. If Trump is defeated, the book might have value as nostalgia. As political satire, however, it is only a mild success.

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I'll be honest, it took me a little bit to get into this one. Not because of the writing itself or even the plot but simply because the fact that, in our current time, truth really is stranger than fiction and some of it was hitting a bit too close to home. But what kept me reading until I settled into the humor was Herb, the wonderfully enduring put-upon hero of the story. It's hard not to root for him as he tries valiantly to keep the ship afloat when everything seems determined to sink it around him. I found his inner dialogue to be a real hoot, as well as the characters around him. It was a quick read too. I would absolutely recommend it to any other politics junkies out there, especially to bring some laughs into election season.

Note: I received a free electronic edition of this book via NetGalley in exchange for the honest review above. I would like to thank them, the publisher, and the author for the opportunity to do so.
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Christopher Buckley"s Make Russia Great Again was not as fun and entertaining as I had hoped. I am giving it two stars.
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Herb Nutterman had retired from the Trump Organization after 27 years when he is tapped to become 45's seventh chief of staff. He is, after all, Donnie's "favorite Jew." He thought he knew what he was getting into, but nothing can prepare him for the chaos and backstabbing that is Cheeto's administration. 

In an interesting turnabout, in Buckley's fictional take, the US interferes in Russia's election--inadvertently, of course, because that's how incompetent the administration is. As Nutterman tries to extricate Trump from this latest mess, he also has to deal with the revelation that Vice President Pants was involved in a satanic cult in high school, as well as a thumb drive with 45 sampling the delights of Miss Universe pageant contestants. 

The hilarity of this novel is tempered by the fact that so much of it is true. And, of course, in the time between writing and distribution, so many new scandals have surfaced, to say nothing of 186,000 deaths from covid-19. Obviously, Christopher Buckley knows his subject well, and his new names he gives real people alone make this satire worth reading. Obviously, fans of Cheeto will not want to read this book, but anyone with a sense of humor and liberal leanings will love it.
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I really enjoyed this book, which probably gives you an idea of my political bent.  In fact, I have to keep reminding myself now that some of the things in this are not true or I might start citing them as facts.

I have read other Buckley books and I enjoy his writing and his tone.  This is one of the few books that had me laughing out loud for real.  I actually recommended it to several people and will buy it when it is published.
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Make Russia Great Again by Christopher Buckley
The bad news is I am back from vacation in Michigan and no longer have access to a lake simply by stepping out of my tent and choosing the form of my water transportation (pontoon boat, row boat, or kayak). The good news is I read another political satire and am here to report back. First, the basics:

Make Russia Great Again Book Cover
Make Russia Great Again
Christopher Buckley
Simon & Schuster
July 14, 2020
The award-winning and bestselling author of Thank You for Smoking delivers a hilarious and whipsmart fake memoir by Herb Nutterman—Donald Trump’s seventh chief of staff—who has written the ultimate tell-all about Trump and Russia. Herb Nutterman never intended to become Donald Trump’s White House chief of staff. Herb served the Trump Organization for twenty-seven years, holding jobs in everything from a food and beverage manager at the Trump Magnifica to being the first general manager of the Trump Bloody Run Golf Course. And when his old boss asks “his favorite Jew” to take on the daunting role of chief of staff, Herb, spurred on by loyalty, agrees. But being the chief of staff is a lot different from being a former hospitality expert. Soon, Herb finds himself deeply involved in Russian intrigue, deflecting rumors about Mike Pence’s high school involvement in a Satanic cult, and leading President Trump’s reelection campaign. What Nutterman experiences is outrageous, outlandish, and otherwise unbelievable—therefore making it a deadly accurate account of being the chief of staff during the Trump administration. With hilarious jabs at the biggest world leaders and Washington politics overall, Make Russia Great Again is a timely political satire from “one of the funniest writers in the English language” (Tom Wolfe).

Of the recent political satire books I have read Make Russia Great Again was by far the best.

Christopher Buckley makes the White House activity all too believable and doesn’t go so far over the top as to spoil the humor. The dry humor works with just enough absurdity to add spice. Sure, it is at times sophomoric and crude, but given the subject matter what do you expect?

Why the three stars? I guess there is a fine line between humor that is funny and that which is depressing. So even as I smiled wryly at the humor, I was shaking my head at the reality that makes satire of the Trump era so difficult.

And this is where judging this book becomes difficult. If you WANT to laugh at/with Trump World, Buckley provides the opportunity. But in some ways it seems to normalize the absurdities involved. Ironically, the humor works in important ways because Buckley gets at the absurdity that lies close to any form of politics and celebrity culture and plays it straight. And he highlights how Trump turns this all up to 11. There isn’t a seething anger or a bitterness either.

But there is a sense in which serious satire tells us something important about the subject, culture and times being satirized and I am not sure Buckley accomplishes that.

Two reviews that highlight this. Ron Charles is a fan:

Until now, Donald Trump has avoided being fully captured by novelists simply by behaving worse than any of them could fathom. But the great fiction writers who stormed the White House over the past few years share some of the blame, too. Howard Jacobson, Salman Rushdie and Dave Eggers all took steady aim at the bloated target, but in their satirical novels, anger curdled their humor and ultimately blunted their barbs.

Christopher Buckley is not angry about Donald Trump. He sounds instead as delighted as a fly discovering the world’s largest pile of manure. The comic genius behind such classics as “Thank You for Smoking” has given us an outrageously funny novel equal to the absurdity roiling Washington. The explosion of topical gags in “Make Russia Great Again” will — one hopes — someday require a host of footnotes to explain, but let the future worry about that. Typically, comedy is tragedy plus time. For now, we’ll have to make do with tragedy plus Buckley.

Christopher Buckley’s ‘Make Russia Great Again’ is the Trump satire we’ve been waiting for
Charles gets at what turned me off about previous satires (see here and here) when he writes “all took steady aim at the bloated target, but in their satirical novels, anger curdled their humor and ultimately blunted their barbs.”

But Glenn C. Altschuler makes a valid point on the novels flaw(s):

And yet, Mr. Buckley’s claim that politics has become self-satirizing has never been more true than it is now. “Make Russia Great Again” relies all too often on references (like Rudy Giuliani’s “butt-dialing) lifted from the headlines, well-known character flaws, and stereotypes […] Satire, of course, is not always subtle. But as Christopher Buckley preaches to the choir, “Make Russia Great Again” may leave readers laughing self-righteously but not better informed, enlightened, or challenged. And a fair number of Never Trumpers may apply the motto Mr. Buckley invents for the Democrats as their campaign theme to his book: “Come On…We Are So Much Better Than This!”

Make American novels about politics funny again!
I don’t want to say that you can’t enjoy a well done satire about serious events. Or that Buckley’s satire somehow excuses the outrageous events and character flaws of its subjects. But there is a sense that 1) Buckley makes it seem normal and some readers will be uncomfortable with that and 2) the all-too-serious events unfolding everyday took some of the fun out of it for me.

Kirkus is close to my view:

Buckley, a former White House speechwriter, adds comic spin to recent events, providing a plausible view of the crude, jury-rigged, stopgap daily carnival that is No. 45 at work. The author can be witty and clever but also sophomoric and sexist … Buckley is a smart, entertaining observer, but the weak spots in his humor can leave a reader wincing.

Kirkus Review
While Joe Westerfield at Newsweek is in the Ron Charles grouping:

Buckley’s return to tarnishing the shine on the buckle of the Beltway is long overdue, but his hiatus has not dulled his dry, cutting wit at all. His subtlety is a more than welcome antidote to the bold-faced, all-caps exclamations that define the Twitterverse, 24-hour news cycle and their No. 1 subject, one who does not usually invite subtlety.

People working from home are in luck: While reading this, they can laugh out loud freely and not fear the strange looks of fellow commuters or diners. Then, too, all readers are in luck anyway, because Make Russia Great Again gives them a reason to laugh out loud again.

‘Make Russia Great Again’ Is Christopher Buckley’s Latest Great Feat à Clef
So whether you enjoy Make Russia Great Again will depend on your appetite for satire at the moment, your views on the threat Trump represents, and your tolerance for sophomoric and crude humor. But if you are looking for political satire, Christopher Buckley is one of the best.
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What a funny premise. In a anxious time. It was a breath of fresh air. It is evident that real life incidents were turned on their head . I found the reporting insightful but not so far fetched that you could not visualize the situations. Mr. Buckley was spot on and hilariously accurate in his description of the emotional roller coaster we have all been on these past three years.
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I've never been disappointed in a Christopher Buckley book, and his record holds with Make Russia Great Again. I was once again amused and delighted, but also definitely surprised at Buckley's approach.

Most people, aiming for satire, opt for exaggeration. They amplify quirks and faults to outrageous levels in order to "hold up human vices and follies to ridicule or scorn" (Webster on satire.) Or, as Nigel said in This is Spinal Tap, they dial it up to eleven.

Make Russia Great Again was different. Buckley dialed it down to, say, eight or nine, so that, in the book, the 45th president and his loyal staffers seemed more reasonable and sympathetic than in real life. The only things truly over-the-top were the names that Buckley assigned some characters (see below). The rest seemed confusingly normal.

While President Trump and his wife, along with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Vladimir Putin and others keep their real names in this narrative, many characters for some reason are spoofed. Trump's daughter is Ivunka and her husband Jored. Ambassador Nikki Haley becomes Cricket Singh. Kelly-Anne Conway is Katie Borgia-O'Reilly.

The narrator is Herb Nutterman, Trump's seventh chief of staff, formerly employed by the Trump Organization in hospitality management. And how on-target is that? I came away with the strong impression that 99.8% of the content was factual, with only a cheeky word choice here and there comprising the balance.

Speaking of word choice, I came to anticipate one of Buckley's repeating devices, where Herb self-edits his narration from a harsh (some would say realistic) judgment to the kinder, gentler "spin" of his supportive thought process. Trump's relationship with a Russian oligarch? "I don't want to say shady" Herb says, and amends it to "problematic."

I LOVED Buckley's use of footnotes, where much of the sly humor in the book was employed. I guess the only thing that bothered me was that (in this current election-year setting) there was allusion to Coronavirus in Chapter 2, with nary another mention. Seemed like a token reference, slapped on in final editing.

Regardless, you simply cannot go wrong with a Christopher Buckley book. Thanks to NetGalley and Thomas and Mercer for an advance readers copy of the book.
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Make Russia Great Again is a cringeworthy and hilarious satirical account of the current Trump administration. Whereas satire often shows us the extreme absurdity and irony of a situation, and takes us to unimaginable places, the reality is, our current situation is more extreme than the places Buckley can take us. You just can’t be more absurd than Trump is in real life. Still, I found myself smiling as I read, and nearly laughing, as I reminded myself Buckley’s book IS fictional. Once we are past Trump’s wreckage, and some healing has taken place, Buckley’s book will likely be a laugh out loud hit. Right now it’s all a little too real and plausible to enjoy beyond the 3.5 stars I gave it.

Many thanks to NetGalley and Simon and Schuster for allowing me to read and review this book.
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Herb Nutterman knows the hospitality industry. He worked for Donald Trump’s hotels for decades, finding ways to please guests and the boss in creative and satisfying ways. So when many of Mr. Trump’s latest employees fail him, he feels like it’s time to call in Herb Nutterman to take over the position of chief of staff. Herb is the seventh in the line of chiefs of staff, and he has no political experience, but he’s willing to come out of retirement to help Mr. Trump, who has been so good to him through the years. 

It’s clear pretty soon that things didn’t go perfectly for Nutterman, as he’s writing this memoir from prison. But he tells the whole story of how things went south for him, from the election that was so clearly rigged, the Tweets, the confusion about the fake Monsignor, the assassination attempt on Oleg, the allegations of devil worship raised towards Vice-President Pants, and Herb’s aversion to borscht and kale vodka (though to be fair, almost everyone who knew about the kale vodka also thought it was disgusting). 

It was when Herb first found out about the AI named Placid Reflux that things started going downhill. That was the bot that tampered with the election, giving the votes to Communist leader Anatoli Zitkin instead of the incumbent Putin. Then things got a little more complicated, as Herb was tasked with keeping Oleg happy, a man known for dispatching those who displease him with a touch of nerve agent that has come to be called “Oil of Oleg.” But when that fails and Oleg starts posting videos on social media of Mr. Trump and his “personal interviews” with each of the Miss Universe pageant contestants, Nutterman grows worried. 

But it’s not until Mr. Trump unveils his plans to make Putin happy again that everything breaks loose, and Herb finds himself in the line of fire that he can’t duck away from. 

Christopher Buckley is back with his unique style of political satire with Make Russia Great Again. I’ve been a fan of Buckley since The White House Mess, and I especially adore his political satires. And while I can’t fault him on his story here, I just couldn’t love this as much as I’d hoped to. The humor is just a little too close to reality right now, so some of the jokes don’t land as they should. I think once we get past the present administration (please, just the one term!), it will get funnier. And I think reading this again in 5-10 years’ time will make this hysterical. But for right now, it’s a little too realistic and just makes me sad for the present state of our country. 

Egalleys for Make Russia Great Again were provided by Simon & Schuster through NetGalley, with many thanks.
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There are few, if any, writers today who are as adept at satire as Chris Buckley. Starting with Thank You for Smoking, Buckley has corrected political correctness, butchered sacred cows, made conventional wisdom inconvenient and blasted the shibboleths of left and right, although he'd never use a word like shibboleths.There is much of this in evidence in MRGA, but there's this little problem. Reality has overtaken art. You can't effectively satirize someone or something if that entity has already seen your bet and raised it. The book is amusing but cannot come close to the idiocy and self-parody emanating from the House of Horrors at 1600 Pennsylvania. It's like trying to embarrass Mitch McConnell -- simply cannot be done.
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Make Russia Great Again is a fictional memoir from one in a long line of Secretaries of State in the Trump administration, Herb. Herb is the perfect fly on the wall describing all the crazy antics that probably are real future headlines on the scroll bar at CNN.

I loved the author’s previous book, Thank You for Smoking, so I had to read his latest book. However, I, like many other reviewers, have realized that the subject being parodied is already so extreme that satire just seems silly.

Americans are so used to the current President’s outrageous claims and actions that literally nothing can surprise us. The point of parody is to take a person’s idiosyncrasies to the next level of absurdity. Unfortunately for us all, the President is already there, making Make Russia Great Again redundant. Just watch any news show. Even Fox News, his former ally, is beginning to turn on him. Therefore, purely for this reason, this book receives 3 stars from me. I’m sorry Mr. Buckley. I’ll still looking forward to your next book.

Thanks to Simon & Schuster and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
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I’ve only read one other Christopher Buckley book, <i>No Way To Treat a First Lady</i>, a satire of the Hilary and Bill Clinton marriage. I found it hilarious. So when I saw that this was a Trump book, I had to try it. The problem though, is this, and I’m not sure I fault the writer for it, they don’t or can’t go far enough. This is pretty much what I’d expect to see any day on Twitter.

Wrong timing, maybe? Certainly not the book to come out during the coronavirus, with a ticking death clock hanging over us. Maybe I’m just gloomy. 

Many thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the ARC.
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Christopher Buckley established himself as one of our funniest political satirists with his earlier novels like Thank You for Smoking and The White House Mess.  Buckley has been taking a break from contemporary political satire and for some reason decided that today's political climate wasn't absurd enough in reality, so he has written Make Russia Great Again.  

Late in President his first term, Trump appoints his long-time employee Herb Nutterman as White House Chief of Staff.  Herb has been a reliable, loyal employee at Trump's hotels and clubs, and brings his hospitality instincts to politics and international affairs.  Things start to get messy when Herb learns that a US-created rogue AI has interfered with Russia's presidential election, pushing a Communist Party candidate that had been way behind in the polls into a runoff with Putin.  Meanwhile, a Russian oligarch has videos of Trump having sex with all the contestants at the Moscow Miss Universe competition and has certain demands he is asking of Trump.  Herb, needless to say, is in way over his head.

While there are some funny scenes among the absurd scenarios Buckley writes, the whole novel has the feel of laziness.  Buckley takes Trump's worst stereotypes, the administration's most ridiculous characteristics, and the left's most over-the-top accusations, to create this alternative history of the Trump presidency.  It's too dull to be vicious, and too silly to make any meaningful point.  It's like a Hilary Clinton delusion in which the Steele "pee tape" turned out to be real and Trump is actually in Putin's back pocket.  Maybe Trump haters will love it, I don't know.  I have a feeling the author's father would dismiss Make Russia Great Again as a silly waste of time.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!
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How to write political satire on the Trump Administration when the real thing is so absurd? Well, Christopher Buckley gives it his best shot and that is, as usual, very funny. MAKE RUSSIA GREAT AGAIN will either make readers laugh or wince, perhaps both, in equal amounts.  It is difficult enough to live in this Trump World but Buckley at least offers us an absurd alternative plot line.  Or does he?  The book is fast and fun.  I received my copy from the publisher through NetGalley.
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Who doesnt love the humor and satire of Buckley?  I don't.  This one made me laugh out loud.  Buckley always does an amazing job turning real life situations into grand humor.
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How much you enjoy this book might well depend on what the political news is while you're reading it.  Buckley knows how to write on point satire and he does it here to Donald Trump, the Trump administration, and Vladimir Putin.  Herb Nutterman, the new Chief of Staff, is the naif (sort of) who finds himself dealing with the chaos.  And chaos it is.  Washington observers will be able to id virtually all the characters.  It's got some laughs, some smiles, and some groaners.   My only issue was that I kinda wanted to turn the tv off for a while due to real events, which means that I might not have read this in the best state of mind.  If you're up for it, this is a good one.  Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC.
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Christopher Buckley hit the nail on the head when he said American politics had "become self-satirizing". The biggest problem I have with Make Russia Great Again is the fact that it's too close to being realistic. I mean, 2020 has proven to us that literally anything is possible. 

It's 2020, and Herb Nutterman is Trump's newest hire as chief of staff. Herb has worked in the hospitality industry under Donald Trump for the last 27 years, much to his wife Hetta's dismay. Nevertheless, Herb is dazzled at the idea of working in the White House and accepts the offer. From there, we are privy to the inner workings of the Trump White House - complete with drones, rigged elections, and many, many firings of employees.

I was cracking up reading this. It is very, very rare that I audibly laugh at a book - and I definitely snickered a couple of times. This is chock-full of pop culture and political references that (unless you've been living under a rock) everyone will get. 

Another reason why this book is rated so highly for me is that it doesn't push a certain agenda. Of course, we will come to our own conclusions before picking up the book and before finishing it. But, Buckley himself doesn't look to disgrace any one character more than the other - Herb Nutterman surely won't criticize his superior. I think for such a charged topic, it is very important for an author to keep an even-toned, unbiased narration throughout and let the readers make the decisions for themselves - and Buckley definitely does that.

All in all, it made me laugh and was an easy read that is a breeze to get through. Even if you are sick of politics, this novel will make you laugh at its absurdities - take a chance on it.

Thank you to NetGalley for an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts are my own.
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