Dubliner Vivian Lawlor doesn’t fit in anywhere. Will she ever find her place in this world?
Debut novelist Lally creates a portrait of loneliness through the whimsical and obsessive Viv, who meticulously and painstakingly plots her daily walks through the streets of Dublin. The Irishwoman lives in the cluttered home she inherited from her deceased great-aunt, with whom she had lived since her parents’ deaths. Auntie was a Grey Gardens–style hoarder with an impressive collection of oddball items. Quirkiness runs in the Lawlor family, and before their deaths, Viv’s parents managed to convince this daughter (they have another, also named Vivian) that she's a changeling from another world. Viv is now a woman searching for portals to the world where she belongs and desperately seeking a friend. Her interactions with the people she crosses paths with in her daily life—shopkeepers, taxi drivers, urban pedestrians—are so, so awkward, they are at once delightfully hilarious and painfully cringeworthy. But they will never lead to friendship, and so Viv posts a sign advertising for a pal. Not just any friend. This charmingly touched heroine is on the hunt for a friend named Penelope (no Pennies need apply). Viv, who insists on the abbreviated version of her name because she loves palindromes, wants to ask this new friend why Penelope does not rhyme with antelope. When Viv meets her Penelope, she’s met her match. Though not a grounding influence, Penelope’s friendship forces Viv to see her world from a new perspective.
Absent the dramatic character arcs or plot twists readers would expect from an American novel, this urban fairy tale delivers something that is both subtle and profound in its examination of the human soul. Magically delicious.