A lonely young woman strikes up a troubling friendship with her mysterious landlady in the latest novel from Man Booker Prize shortlisted author Moore (He Wants, 2014, etc.).
On the cusp of turning 30, Bonnie has little to call her own. She dropped out of college, wants to write but finds herself blocked, and works two part-time cleaning jobs. One day, her landlady, Sylvia, who lives upstairs, arrives on her doorstep and the two strike up a friendship of sorts. Sylvia shows an interest in Bonnie’s writing, urging her to finish a short story that Sylvia sees as reflecting Bonnie’s own anxieties and experiences, eventually taking the younger woman on a trip in hopes of helping her find an ending. But Sylvia’s interest might not be as well-intentioned as Bonnie thinks. Moore excels at mining the mundanity of life for profound emotional impact. Bonnie’s parents’ dismissal of and distaste for their daughter is heartbreaking, as is Bonnie’s own effort to find comfort in her emotionally and physically austere life. But Moore doesn't deliver on the tension that emerges as Bonnie and Sylvia become closer and closer. The sense of unease that dominates their scenes together doesn’t line up with the novel’s resolution, which feels rushed and lacks the depth or thoughtfulness of the rest of the book.
An engaging and haunting setup never quite reaches a satisfying finish in this psychological cat-and-mouse game.