Moriarty (The Rest of Her Life, 2007, etc.) slips inside the skin of a premed student disoriented by her parents’ divorce and her own fumbling attempts to live up to others’ expectations.
Veronica Von Holten’s father, a lawyer who raided his retirement when times grew lean, and her mother Natalie, a stay-at-home mom who had once been a teacher, separate after Dad catches a strange man asleep in his own bed. After the family house is sold in the divorce proceedings, Natalie takes the ancient and often incontinent family dog Bowzer away in her minivan with the rest of her possessions. Now strapped for money, she struggles to support herself in a world that no longer considers her skills valid or useful. Meanwhile, Veronica’s life turns inside out. She’s struggling with an organic-chemistry class that might as well be Mandarin for all the sense it makes to her; her rock-steady engineering-student boyfriend Tim wants her to move in with him; and she stinks at her job as a Resident Advisor in the dorm. Without a car and longing for some privacy, Veronica leaps at the chance to housesit for one of the more dubious campus characters: a guy named Jimmy, who has piercings, a shaved head, a mysterious, possibly illegal source of income and an oddly familiar girlfriend. Things don’t go quite as Veronica hopes they will, and soon she’s nursing a headache, heartache and bad attitude that she will later come to regret. Moriarty deftly explores the shifting ground between Veronica and each of her parents, but it is the familiar turf of mother-daughter relationships that primarily engages her. In her careful and knowing hands, Veronica, Natalie and the rest emerge as characters readers will care about.
Turn off the phone, lock the door and order takeout before opening this sweet, straight-through read that leaves no loose ends dangling.