In Wolf’s debut novel, an autistic man doesn’t immediately grasp that his new “girlfriend” is a prostitute.
Shawn, 24, is a socially awkward computer programmer for a dating website. One evening, he attends his boss’s “Pimps and Hos” party. There, he meets a young woman named Violet, who agrees to go on a date with him. After they arrive at Shawn’s New York City apartment, where he lives with his recently widowed grandmother Ruth, Violet realizes that he doesn’t know that she’s truly a “ho” who expects to be paid. But because Shawn is rather sweet, Violet lets him wait for her as she goes on so-called “auditions” that evening. Later that week, Shawn’s older brother, Colin, takes him to a singles party; Violet shows up as well, finally responding to Shawn’s persistent texts. She’s annoyed when Colin warns her off, telling her that Shawn is a high-functioning autistic; as a result, she and Shawn start hanging out in earnest. Eventually, and rather reluctantly, she agrees to meet him at church services. Arriving late and on her own, she recalls how her mother didn’t believe her when she told her about her uncle’s sexual abuse and how she forbade her from telling her pastor about it; this trauma led to her leaving home and meeting Anton, the pimp who trapped her into prostitution. Shawn catches her sneaking out of the church and proposes, and they soon get married. But later, when Ruth reveals the results of her background check on Violet, the latter runs off. Will Shawn and Violet find a way to forge a new life together? Wolf, an award-winning filmmaker, has adapted this first novel from his own original screenplay, and its cinematic potential clearly shows. The high-concept narrative is entertaining, well-paced, and highly visual, as Shawn also grapples with synesthesia, hearing sounds when seeing color. The work’s scope is also rather ambitious, encompassing discussions of Scripture, Shawn’s earlier girlfriend, Violet’s fellow sex workers, and even the dating website’s connection to human trafficking, among other things. Still, the story largely holds together, and it’s a charming, humorous, and hopeful tale.
A quirky, touching love story that offers insights into autism, religion, and personal tragedy.