In a bizarrely touching first novel, July (It Chooses You, 2011, etc.) brings the characteristic humor, frankness and emotional ruthlessness of her previous work in film, prose and performance to a larger canvas.
Cheryl Glickman lives a lonely, precisely arranged life afflicted by mysterious neuroses, including the persistent sensation of a lump in her throat. She obsesses over Phillip Bettelheim, a board member of the nonprofit where she works, and the belief that she keeps meeting a familiar, beloved soul embodied in the babies of strangers. Afflicted by a host of anxieties, both believable and outrageous, Cheryl keeps her world tightly ordered until Clee, her bosses’ aggressively rude and monstrously provocative daughter, comes to stay in her house and sets off a sequence of fantasies and disasters that violently transform Cheryl’s life. Told in Cheryl’s own confiding, unfiltered voice, the novel slides easily between plot and imagination, luring the reader so deeply into Cheryl’s interior reality that the ridiculous inventions of her life become progressively more and more convincing. Cheryl acts out simulations from self-defense DVDs with Clee as self-prescribed therapy for her timidity and globus hystericus burdened throat. She becomes fixated on creating graphic, sometimes-perverted sexual fantasies between Clee and a multitude of other people. Her therapist becomes the receptionist of another therapist three times a year as part of “an immensely satisfying adult game.” Though these strange details sometimes seem to slide into heavy-handed attempts to shock, at their best, they deliver an emotional slap made sharper and more fitting by their oddity.
A sometimes-funny, sometimes-upsetting, surprisingly absorbing novel that lives up to the expectations created by July’s earlier work and demonstrates her ability to carry the qualities of her short fiction into the thickly fleshed-out world of a novel.