A repetitive but beautifully written debut novel about a college graduate’s self-discovery.
When Annie turns 25, her life seems to be in order. Her live-in boyfriend, Max, opens a yoga studio; her career as a Web designer in San Francisco is thriving; and her mother, back in the Midwest, seems to be just fine. But when things in Annie’s life start to fall apart—with watershed moments often presented in sparse detail—she finds herself paralyzed. Instead of flying home to be with her family, she watches TV and doses herself with “sleepytime medicine.” This choice doesn’t quite match the intensity of Annie’s grief, though. Equally odd is Annie’s decision to keep the bad news a secret from her best friend, Prita, as well as from everyone at work. Instead of turning to friends and colleagues, she finds solace in a B&B in rural Drake’s Valley, Calif. Annie and Max initially planned to go to the valley together; now Annie drives to the countryside alone. She finds great comfort in the place, a Victorian house run by a taciturn woman known as “the souplady.” As the lady serves her soup, she tells Annie that it “Feeds the body, warms the soul.” Between the delectable soup and the refreshing sleep she enjoys, Annie soon establishes a routine of weekly visits to the B&B. Walking in the clear air with her camera in hand, she recalls her love of photography—a convenient time to remember it, since her Web design job isn’t going so well. Scenes of Annie at the Web design firm create a number of dull tangents: There are entire play-by-plays of presentations to clients, and the muddled antagonism between her and co-worker Josh is never really explained. The writing is strongest, however, when Annie observes the natural world, as when she sees a jackrabbit’s ears, their “transparent pink flesh big as the teardrop heads of badminton racquets.” In the valley, three young boys—Ky, JJ and Newt—develop their own fascination with the souplady, whom they call the Bonelady. They spy on her and insist that she makes her broth with human bones. Ultimately, their curiosity and mischievousness create another void in Annie’s life.
A richly descriptive tale of grief and gratitude.