A bighearted, eccentric millennial navigates her messy coming-of-age in Los Angeles.
Duncan’s unique debut follows a fictional Fiona Alison Duncan, a writer who moves from New York City to Los Angeles. In LA, Fiona sublets a room in an apartment called La Mariposa and begins dreaming up a reality show starring herself and her broke, beautiful, 20-something roommates. In their search for “the Real” (an almost unattainable state of living), Fiona pitches the show as “A real Real World” before realizing the inherent inauthenticity: “But the means I sought to make our dreams known were too mixed up in the Dream. To be seen, moneyed, on-screen.” So she breaks the contract and writes a novel (this novel) instead. Along with thoughtful insights about capitalism, feminism, and politics, the novel is full of fads and trends: Instagram, social media branding, astrology, vegan ice cream, and nutritional yeast to name a few. In one clever moment, Duncan addresses the way trends exist within greater power structures: “Astrology’s gone in and out of style before; right now, it’s peaking in popularity, because people are desperate for a meaning system more nourishing than capitalism.” The novel also ruminates on the knottiness of money, work, female ambition, art, and power. Fiona is a writer who struggles with her artistic impulse to capture the world in a medium that will always fall short. She writes that “what [she] made was never as beautiful as the reality it reached toward,” and yet she tries. The novel is highbrow and lowbrow; about everything and nothing; and wholly of this particular cultural moment—in a good way. If there were such a thing as a “millennial novel,” this is how it should be defined: chaotic, earnest, honest, and curious. Duncan has written a sharp and astute work of metafiction
An original, insightful debut that doesn’t quite fit in a box—but checks them all.