Five narrators play a game of narrative hot potato with a tale of summer sexcapades.
Rachel Klein is a student at "that overrated liberal arts school on the Hudson." As the novel opens, she offers to dogsit for her creative writing professor, Zahid Azzam—"the name of either a superhero or terrorist"—while he goes home to Pakistan. Then they have sex. Meanwhile, up in glorious bougie Connecticut, Rachel's father, Jonathan, has left her mother, Becca, and Becca's beloved poodle has died. So when Rachel shows up for the summer with a nearly identical poodle and in a few weeks the dog is followed by its owner, the supersexy, famous Pakistani writer—well, Becca is in a vulnerable position to say the least. Dermansky (The Red Car, 2016, etc.) gives each of the Kleins and Zahid a turn at being the narrator and throws in one more—a lesbian financial analyst named Khloe who is subletting Zahid’s apartment in Brooklyn. Khloe's interior monologue contains lines like these: "Honestly, this kind of shit did not happen to me. I was tall and biracial and sexy." Khloe's twin sister is a writer named Kristi who has stolen Khloe's childhood secrets for her own award-winning first novel, nominated of course by Zahid. Now maybe Kristi can help him get a job at the Iowa Writers' Workshop, where she teaches, prying him out of his very long lost weekend in Connecticut. There are many funny writer jokes in this book, among them the commentary on Rachel's parents' marriage provided by her short stories; in a way the whole book is a writer joke. All the characters sound the same—like Dermansky, except with more or less profanity—and that seems to be intentional. "We appreciate short sentences," says Rachel's mom, speaking for all of them, really. Dermansky has won herself a cadre of devoted fans, especially among other writers. This may not be the best thing she's ever written—it doesn't have the sneaky profundity of The Red Car—but it's a hell of a lot of stylish fun.
Can you top this? is the question posed by each chapter of this upmarket soap opera, and the answer is always yes.