Four college suitemates, each with her own frustrated desires, reunite at a baby shower. After 11 years, will any of them have found real happiness?
Moses’ debut novel thoughtfully evokes the interior lives of these women, distinguishing each with her unique heartbreaks. We begin with Ruth, the eldest daughter of an immigrant mother whose expectations she can never hope to meet. So her mother “helps” her study for her bat mitzvah by learning all the lines herself; she “helps” her write an essay by revising each sentence until Ruth’s words are erased; worse, she quashes any attempt at independence. Francesca, born into a privileged New York family, also feels stifled by her mother, who wants only the best for her and manages to control everything but her daughter's appetite. Francesca’s body bears witness to her desire for freedom. Setsu, grateful to have been adopted, tries to please everyone with sweet smiles and impeccable behavior. Since her biological parents were gifted musicians, she, too, has excelled at her violin lessons. All is well until her parents adopt a brother for her—a brother whose own voracious appetite for attention soon strips Setsu of her dreams. In contrast, Opal has traveled the world (or at least the resorts) with her glamorous mother, who effortlessly attracts men. Opal’s attempt to emulate her mother, however, leads to a devastating experience. Suitably damaged, the suitemates endeavor to navigate the choppy waters of college life, dodging unsavory boyfriends and traumatic memories. Organized into chapters that shift among the four women’s perspectives, the novel effectively reads as a collection of carefully crafted short stories. While each woman’s past is compassionately drawn, the revelatory moments of life-affirming changes are oddly absent.
A beautifully written but unsatisfying tale of women finding courage.