Engaging debut about death, modern romance, and growing up.
Junie, 25 and directionless, has yet to find herself and can’t quite embrace the good times with devoted live-in boyfriend Leon, a drummer who secretly dreams of leaving NYC with her to start a family and a restaurant in a small town. Junie fantasizes instead about Eliot, an embittered, middle-aged writer whose greatest success, a soft-core SF novel, is more than 20 years behind him. She perceives Elliot as potentially life-changing, while he’s just looking for his latest muse/plaything. Startlingly, while they carry on their flirtation, Eliot’s cat Alfie recognizes Junie as his soulmate from a past life; trapped in a feline body, he narrates his tragicomic frustration as he tries to be seen, win her back, and warn her away from Eliot. Following the affair’s anticlimactic consummation, Junie turns to her real issues: she cannot move past the death of her little brother when she was eight and needs to confront her parents about screwing her up thereafter. A trip back to Indiana and a conversation with her mother are enough to move our heroine up a step on the emotional maturity ladder; she returns to Leon, ready now for what he offers her. To her credit, Swain wears her knowingness like a loose garment: set in Williamsburg, New York City’s latest hipster hotbed, with a shaven-headed, goateed, rock-’n’-roll drummer love object and up-to-the-minute secondary characters like his bandmates in Mr. Whipple, the wealth of trendy how-they-live-now detail remains supporting texture rather than shiny distractions to the reasonably entertaining action.
Romance fiction right on target for rocker girls with a little therapy under their belts.