Two barely-20-somethings from opposite sides of the tracks fall in frantic love amid the lush grit of New York City in the 1980s in Libaire’s (Here Kitty Kitty, 2004) new novel.
For three months, Elise Perez has been living in a cheerfully dilapidated apartment in New Haven after her roommate (then a stranger) found her sleeping in his car. Next door, Yale junior Jamey Hyde, beautiful, wealthy, from a family of note, is rapidly veering off his proscribed path. She’s a high school dropout who ran away from public housing in Bridgeport: half white, half Puerto Rican, "not lost and not found, not incarcerated, not beautiful and not ugly and not ordinary.” He is her opposite: born and bred in New York City, son of a starlet and an investment banker (acrimoniously divorced), polished and well-mannered, with a job at his father’s namesake firm preordained upon graduation. And against the warnings of everyone around them, they are entranced by each other. Their relationship is obsessive and charged and not entirely pleasant, but their hunger is unstoppable: “She can often tell something’s wrong, since after sex he usually hates her and wants her to disappear or die,” Libaire writes. “But then he comes back the next night, or the night after, and that’s all that matters.” Jamey brings Elise with him to New York for the summer—he has an internship at Sotheby’s—and then for longer, living together in passionate free fall, severing ties to the lives they knew before. Jamey is willing to sacrifice everything he came from for love—but it’s a choice that comes at grave cost. For the most part, Libaire manages to rescue her somewhat familiar characters from the jaws of cliché, but the real strength of the novel is its Technicolor atmosphere: Libaire’s New York is a glittering whirlwind, raw and sweaty and intoxicating.
A page-turning whirlwind steeped in pain and hope.