In Mulligan’s (Watch Me Disappear, 2012, etc.) novel, three young Bostonians search for real happiness, whatever that may be.
When Abby gets sick while tending bar on New Year’s Eve, her boyfriend, Nathaniel, isn’t available to help her. Instead, he’s at a house party in Worcester, Mass., where he unexpectedly finds his unrequited high school love, Maggie Monahan, freshly divorced and back from California. There, they share a kiss as Abby, back in Boston, takes one pregnancy test after another, eventually confirming her worst fear. She decides that she will have the baby, even though Nathaniel, a philosophy professor and former rock musician, has a drinking problem. Meanwhile, Maggie navigates the choppy waters of living at home with a useless liberal arts degree, until she finally picks up a job at Macy’s and makes a new best friend. Abby’s own best friend, Breanna, prepares for her wedding while tending to Abby’s needs as a mother-to-be. Nathaniel fails to show up to support her pregnancy, instead pining for Maggie and sleeping with another woman. All of their lives collide when Nathaniel’s band comes together for a reunion show, and the main characters must define what adulthood means to each of them, which leads to some hard decisions and happy endings. The novel unfolds in alternating chapters from the perspectives of Abby, Nathaniel and Maggie, which keeps the story moving but never allows readers to get close to any one character. The episodic pace keeps the story clear but predictable, much like the characters’ emotional baggage: Nathaniel is haunted by an alcoholic father who never believed in him, and Maggie is wary of letting another man with a drinking problem into her life. The epiphanies come hard and fast as the novel winds down, making for a rushed conclusion in which every character accepts his or her lot in life. It may not be the most original modern romance, but many readers will find comfort in its familiarity. Bostonians will particularly enjoy the novel’s sprawling Massachusetts backdrop and its authentic assortment of bars, T stops and small-town details.
An often entertaining novel about how life can turn out when careers and marriages don’t happen as planned.