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Felicity goes to graduate school, cracks up, runs off to Iceland, and puts her head back together.

Crowell, something of a splash when she published her first novel (Necessary Madness, 1997) at age 17, now describes the ordeal of one Isobel Sivulka, a 25-year-old psych student at NYU stalled in the middle of her doctorate. Isobel’s from a small town in Pennsylvania where she was the most intellectual girl in her high school, and this adolescent isolation from the world around her seems to have persisted long after her move to the big city. Her boyfriend Gavin doesn’t understand her and is rough in bed. The eighth-grade girls Isobel works with as part of her Ph.D. research are badly at-risk, and the school administrators appear unconcerned. She’s not even sure that she wants to finish her degree at all. So she jumps at the opportunity to house-sit in Iceland, and leaves all of her New York problems behind. Iceland is very different from New York and Pennsylvania alike. For one thing, it’s a foreign country. For another, it’s really small. Most of the people in Reykjavík are totally cool and progressive, and there’s a ton of bookshops and neat cafes everywhere. Isobel hooks up with this really edgy guy named Kjarten (“He happened to Isobel on a Saturday night in late June”). He’s really sensitive and everything (he can pick wild herbs and all), but he drinks a lot, and eventually Isobel realizes that they are just not in the same place. She thinks about Gavin, and she writes to her friends in the US, and eventually she sort of finds her center and decides that she wants to finish her doctorate after all. Leaving home and being in her own space for a while helped her get her perspective.

Embarrassingly immature: a harmless story written in the sort of juvenile prose (“Being a woman in a body, and letting that body lead, is an act of blind trust”) that good editors are not supposed to let into print.

Pub Date: May 20th, 2002
ISBN: 0-399-14859-0
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Putnam
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 2002


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