Bruce Ferber’s protagonist, Ira Overman in his debut novel Elevating Overman could be succinctly described as a “nebbish,” which is the Yiddish expression for someone who is dismissed by many as ineffectual, luckless, timid, bumbling and pitifully ineffectual. A character we could associate with Woody Allen or George Costanza of the Seinfeld television series, and incidentally either one would be perfect for the role of Overman, if the novel were ever to be adapted as a movie.

Overman was not always a “nebbish,” as he graduated from Columbia University with honors and initially was successfully employed as an entertainment executive for the studios, as well as positions with various management firms and talent agencies. Unfortunately, his talents were no longer needed and he is forced to accept a job as a car salesman with Steinbaum Mercedes of Calabasas, California.-a job he hates. He is also going through a mid-life crisis, and family wise he is divorced while his two children have abandoned him, blaming him for being a terrible father. His ex-wife, who remarried a sleazy doctor, is constantly putting him down. Not a pretty picture.

When Overman discovers a discount coupon in the Pennysaver for Life-Changing Vision Correction, he decides to follow it up and agrees to have Lasik eye surgery. The eye surgery is not only a great success but it also results into something he never imagined-being transformed from a useless individual to someone that now possesses super powers.

The results are immediate when he is able to defeat his obnoxious childhood friend, Jake Rosenfarb on the tennis court-a feat that rarely happened in the past. In addition, he is easily seduces the sexy Marciela, a co-worker and receptionist at his work of employment, which makes him the envy of Rosenfarb, who can’t understand his friend’s transformation and believes he has entered into some sort of alternate universe.

Rosenfarb convinces himself that Overman had been disguising himself as a failure for fifty-five years just to fool people. As a result, he sets out on a mission to find out the secret and key to his friend’s success. Moreover, he automatically takes on the role as side-kick and protector to Overman, who is not exactly enamored with this new relationship, that eventually evolves into something bordering on insanity, particularly when Rosenfarb has the crackpot idea of reshaping Overman’s life based on some famous comic book heroes. In other words, he is out of control.

With his new found powers, our protagonist now faces the dilemma of deciding where, when, why and how he chooses to use them. As he detests his self-important gasbag of a boss, Hal Steinbaum, Overman decides that he has enough of selling cars, quits his job and accepts a position as a filing clerk for someone that runs a loan sharking business but who is willing to teach him the ropes as to how to become a successful money lender.

Overman also reflects on his past life and is determined to ask pardon for something that occurred during his high school days concerning a young female classmate that had been gang raped by the school’s basketball team. Although Overman did not willingly participate in this horrendous crime, he nonetheless feels that he could have done more to have prevented it from happening.

There are many laughs in Elevating Overman and Ferber’s talents as an Emmy-nominated comedy writer whose credits include Bosom Buddies, Growing Pains, Sabrina,The Teenage Witch, Coach and Home Improvement are clearly in evidence. It is clever, endearing, intelligent and searching, presenting readers with a healthy dose of wry humor coupled with some slapstick as it ponders the age old question as to “what matters in life?” It is also an astute perceptive and moving reflection on the importance of identity and responsibility. The writing is technically skillful devoid of clichéd characters and weak dialogue.

Norm Goldman, bookpleasures.com


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