A 1990s woman is torn between her family and her career, and fills it with compassion, good humor, and an abundance of angst.
Eve Sterling is a 30-year-old academic with a passion for Jane Austen and not much else. Having recently broken up with her boyfriend, she’s content to sit at home alone, mostly contemplating her dissertation, until a friend in desperation sets her up on a blind date. Hart, a commercial photographer, is nothing like the men she usually goes out with (academics, with a few poets mixed in), but they both soon fall head over heels and begin seriously contemplating marriage. Of course, fate intervenes, and Eve becomes pregnant. Suddenly she must learn to envision herself not only as a wife but a parent—when, without warning, her academic adviser dismisses her work as “trivial.” And her mother, an overbearing Dr. Ruth–like therapist, reveals some of her daughter’s deepest secrets on national television, pushing Eve into a deep, dark psychological abyss. She escapes to London, abandoning Hart (now her husband) and her newborn daughter, Gemma, in the hopes of finding herself. Bokat reinforces Eve’s sense of confusion by cleverly alternating between her personal letters and the main storyline. Eve eventually returns to the States, yet the author does not quite fall victim to the desire to create a conventional happy ending, leaving most of her people’s lives somewhat in flux. Eve may never be able to resolve her internal and interpersonal pressures, but the author, through her deft usage of Jane Austen quotes throughout the text, makes us realize these are not problems restricted to the contemporary woman.
Newcomer Bokat sketches her characters with broad strokes, and though sometimes her pen slips into caricature, predominantly they’re finely drawn with humor, sensitivity, and a dash of chutzpah. A fine debut.