A couple separates for the summer to ponder their relationship, among other things.
Ellen and Adam are at a crossroads. Though they have been dating for years, they are just coming to understand their fairly sizable differences. Ellen, the product of an urbane, upper-crust upbringing, is pretty, practical and bored. Adam, solidly middle class, has no desire to ever own a suit or attend a function that would require him to do so. He is inspired by obscure philosophy, intellectual banter and, above all, nature. Ellen halfheartedly follows Adam to Toronto, where he is enrolled in a nebulous Master’s program, and gets a job in an art gallery to pass the time while she dreams of an engagement ring. Meanwhile, Adam becomes close to Cara, a brash, brilliant lesbian he meets at school. When summer comes, Adam embarks on a solo 50-day paddling trip in the northern wilderness, leaving Ellen to fend for herself in the stiflingly hot city she has come to resent. It is a challenge for both—and one that will either save or end their teetering relationship. At first, Ellen is in denial, fantasizing that Adam will return ready to make a real commitment, but she finds herself swept up in a bustling social circle championed by an intriguing new coworker, Deborah, who is still haunted by a baby that she gave up for adoption years ago. Simultaneously, Adam, in the wilderness, fantasizes about a woman who would understand his relationship with nature, and tries to deal with his feelings for the two real women he has left behind—Ellen and Cara. Pick is adept at chronicling the details of a relationship in a believable way. But that’s also her problem: We all have enough Adams and Ellens in our own lives without turning to fiction.
Like a friend complaining about her love life, this novel, while resonant, is ultimately pretty boring.