A closely observed meditation on isolation and loneliness “in a world in which no social problem was addressed till it was a disaster.”
Eric is a middle-aged “small-town lawyer with no cases,” struggling with separation and lost love, when he lays eyes on a young woman in the supermarket line who's just such a disaster. Danielle is a hot mess brimming with suspicion and hostility, to say nothing of being hobbled by a bad sprain and no immediate prospects. When Eric helps her with her groceries—and then, episode by episode, with bits of her torn-up life—young Danielle responds mostly with cagey bitterness, dismissing the train wreck that is her existence with tossed-off observations like “[p]eople are complicated.” Yes, they are, and Danielle—if that is her real name, for, as she tells him, it’s “Danielle, for now”—is more complicated than most. Set against the backdrop of a howling Maine blizzard (“Storm of the Century, that’s what I heard,” says Eric. “Of course that’s what they always say”), Roorbach’s story never takes an expected or easily anticipated turn. Eric makes a project of Danielle, a project that brings some glimmer of meaning into his life. Danielle, in turn, resents being made into said project. She’s an exceedingly strange bird, but strange is better than nothing—maybe, for Danielle is harboring enough secrets to keep a National Security Agency agent busy for years. “I’m sure I lied,” she tells Eric, simply, in one typical exchange. And so she has, though she has her reasons, which we learn as Roorbach’s superbly grown-up love story unfolds.
Lyrical, reserved and sometimes unsettling—and those are the happier moments. Another expertly delivered portrait of the world from Roorbach (Life Among Giants, 2012, etc.), that poet of hopeless tangles.