By Chuck Palahniuk 2002
Victor Mancini, a destitute sex addict, fakes he's choking in expensive restaurants to find patrons to "save" him and then use their sympathy to get to help him fund his hospitalized mother's care.
In Choke, we follow Victor and his friend Denny through a few months of their lives including frequent flashbacks to Victor's childhood. As his mother was found to be unfit to raise him, Victor had grown up in different foster homes. His mother tried to kidnap him from his foster parents several times but every time they would be caught after a short period together, and he would be sent to the child welfare agency again.
The story opens with Victor going to a sex addiction clinic at a local church. Before the class, he has sex with fellow addict Nico in the church bathroom and this shows us his problem. We learn about his mother the next day when he visits her at nursery home. She is suffering from Alzheimer's and thinks her son is her lawyer. It is there we earn about Dr. Marshall who tells him, his mother needs a stomach tube to keep her alive which is quite expensive for Victor.
Victor left medical school to support his sick mother in a nursing home. To pay for a nursing home, he becomes a con artist by going to different expensive restaurants and causes himself to choke in the middle of his meal to trap a "good Samaritan" into saving his life. After this, he uses their sympathy to fund his mother's expenses. He keeps a detailed list of his patrons for the purpose of sending them letters frequently about fake bills that he cannot pay.
Victor also works at a theme park set in colonial times in which most of the staff are either drug addicts or fellow recovering sex addicts. He spends most of the time taking care of Denny who constantly being caught with items that are not related to the colonial age period. We learn that they met at a sex addiction support group and later they become friends and applied to the same job. Later, Denny is fired from the job and begins to build his "dream home" by collecting stones from around the city.
Through the flashbacks, we learn that when Victor was a child, his mother taught him about conspiracy theories and weird medical facts which confused and frightened him. Possibly, such lessons along with constant moving from home to home, made Victor unable to form stable relationships with women. This results in his sex addiction later in life in which he got sexual gratification from women only on a superficial level. Then the first fake choking scene happens after Victor and Denny visit a restaurant and he eats down his steak as quickly as possible to choke himself.
A brief list of the main characters in Choke and analyses of the importance of them in the story.
Victor is the main character and the narrator of the story. He has many phycological issues that seem to be rooted in his childhood. He lacks self-confidence as he shows us self-hatred when he reflects back to his childhood and calling his younger self an idiot. He is a sex and drug addict with commitment issues. From the very beginning, he tells us that the reader will not like his character by saying that "