Five women face emptiness and stress after they leave college.
Kitchener graduated from Princeton in 2014 with no clear plans for her future. In her literary debut, she reflects on the first lonely and disorienting year after college based on her own experiences and those of four female classmates. Two are daughters of hugely wealthy parents; one has an extended family in Cameroon; one has been disowned by her father, a Southern Baptist minister, because she is gay; and Kitchener was raised in a Connecticut suburb. Although she is aiming at diversity, the women are privileged simply by virtue of their Ivy League degrees, and it is that privilege, and the oppressive, competitive “Princeton ladder mentality,” that comes across strongly as Kitchener follows their lives from commencement to their first class reunion. All felt driven to climb ever higher on the ladder of success, and all felt wrenched from their community of peers and from the professors who praised and guided them. Suddenly, needing to make their own decisions, they felt woefully unprepared. “No one talks about the isolation, the identity crisis, or the all-consuming panic that sets in when you realize you have no idea what you want to do with the rest of your life and no one around to point you in the right direction,” writes the author, who admits that her book “won’t resonate with everyone,” such as graduates who need to support themselves and those who are unconcerned about how classmates will judge their life choices. When one woman decided to go to medical school at Emory, she was desperately afraid Princetonians would criticize her “for not going to a more well-known school.” Eventually, Kitchener sought psychological help. One woman found community in a church; another, who earned money by dating sugar daddies, tried psychedelic drugs. Love relationships for each were fraught, and Kitchener returns repeatedly to several women’s attraction to polyamory: a primary lover along with less serious sexual relationships.
Candid revelations that fail to inspire much empathy.