Shocked by the death of her former boss, a young writer leaves her life in New York for a second chance at happiness in San Francisco.
When Leah learns that her boss, Judy, died in a fatal traffic accident and left her a red sports car, she decides to travel back to San Francisco to pay her respects. Soon, though, it’s clear that Leah’s trip is about more than saying goodbye to Judy and revisiting her West Coast haunts. Until an argument with her husband, Hans, turned physical, Leah didn’t realize how stultifying her marriage—which provided Hans with a green card—actually was. “Why did it feel like my life had stopped once I had gotten married?” Leah asks herself, struggling to understand which partnerships—and their domestic trappings—feel “like the right way to live.” Now, with Judy’s voice carefully commenting on her every move from beyond the grave, Leah follows the signs she believes Judy has left for her. We meet a butch lesbian named Lea; former officemates; a Deadhead mechanic; grad school compatriots; a tech billionaire with a major crush; and a beautiful thief waiting to start her life in Big Sur. In vivid, dreamlike prose, Dermansky (Bad Marie, 2010, etc.) shows us how easy it is to feel like a ghost in your own life—and how difficult it can be to fight your way back to your body. It’s no accident that Dermansky’s nods to literature and pop culture serve as delightful signposts of surrealism—there are strains of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Haruki Murakami novels, HBO’s Six Feet Under and psychedelic drug use. At times it’s difficult to tell who is haunting whom—whether Judy is haunting Leah or Leah walks like a specter through her past life in order to—finally—build a future that makes her feel alive.
Dermansky delivers a captivating novel about the pursuit of joy that combines dreamlike logic with dark humor, wry observation, and gritty feminism.