When a woman’s personal and professional lives unravel simultaneously, things will feel off-kilter.
It’s 2011. Stevie, an untenured writing teacher at a university in New York, is trying to parent her 8-year-old daughter, Sasha, at least on the days that the child lives with her. At other times, Sasha is in the East Village with dad Aaron, and while the adults' relationship is not contentious, it is certainly not easy. Meanwhile, Stevie’s best friend, Mel, who’s in a long-term relationship with a woman, has been having sex with a man she works with and, at the age of 42, has become pregnant. Should she have the baby? she wonders. What does Stevie think? Clearly, both options have pros and cons. Stevie is further stressed by something she saw on the first day of the fall semester: A student jumped to her death from the roof of the glass-walled building in which Stevie teaches, her body free falling onto the pavement as the class watched in shock. It’s a haunting, horrific image. Days later, when Stevie visits an impromptu on-campus memorial, she meets a homeless teenage runaway named Johanna who also saw the suicide. This bonds them. The backdrop to all this is Occupy Wall Street; the encampment allows each character to address society’s failings and dream about other ways of living and being. And then there’s sex—lots of graphic sex as Stevie barhops to feel less distraught over the dissolution of her marriage. It’s a complex plot involving loads of people, and their relationships are messy and often fueled by drugs and alcohol. Written with a keen ear for dialogue and an exceptional eye for detail, the novel is a showcase for the everyday reality of working-class intellectuals living in an increasingly gentrified city.
A provocative and well-told story about chosen community, friendship, and human frailty.