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ANNA INCOGNITO by Laura Preble


by Laura Preble

Pub Date: Feb. 4th, 2020
ISBN: 978-1-64307-136-7
Publisher: Mascot Books

A borderline recluse in California with a few mental problems embarks on a road trip to her psychologist’s wedding in this novel.

Anna Beck suffers from an uncommon condition. She has trichotillomania, a disorder that leads her to pull every hair out of her body. She also has obsessive-compulsive disorder, so accomplishing ordinary tasks can be quite difficult. Nonetheless, she possesses a witty and sardonic sense of humor and goes to great lengths to tackle her problems. As a germophobe, she finds a laundromat called the Fluffitorium disgusting, so she arranges with the owner to clean the place after it closes so she can disinfect it while free from other people contaminating the premises. As it happens, she met her psychologist, Dr. Edward Denture, at the Fluffitorium when he boldly used her reserved washing machines (“I know that’s an unusual place to meet someone who would change the course of your life, but we both had run out of underwear,” Anna muses). Now, an envelope arrives in the mail, inviting Anna to Edward’s wedding in Colorado. Six months before, she thought she was in love, or at least lust, with Edward but now he is engaged to April Fennimore-Klein. With Anna’s disorders, travel is next to impossible but she cannot fathom Edward’s getting married and wants to stop the wedding. She coerces her friend Petra into securing a car for her, and then, armed with an inordinate amount of hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes, puts her wig on straight and heads out on the road. Things go smoothly for a while, but a bizarre, transient mother and daughter latch on to Anna, throwing her already madcap life into further disarray. The protagonist’s acerbic wit and mordant tone work well in the difficult material in Preble’s unconventional road novel. With a downstairs neighbor from Flatbush, Brooklyn, added to the mix, Anna’s small world is full of biting humor effectively used to deal with personal pain, and it keeps the story from getting too heavy. Flashbacks to sessions with Edward are handled well and have insightful moments, though Anna’s reticence to reveal things slows the tale down a bit. Unfortunately, the only other major characters, the troubled mother and daughter, are mostly an annoyance until the story is too far along for it to matter.

A razor-sharp, oddly fun but sometimes clunky romp through the American West.