In Mosier’s debut novel, a young man and woman find unlikely love in New York City.
Tuli (“short for Tulip”) is a young Manhattan woman who works at a call center. She also, as the novel’s opening line states, gives “handjobs to strangers, but not for the usual reasons.” Unhappy, isolated and hopping from therapist to therapist, Tuli is drawn to handicapped or otherwise unusual men—but neither she nor they derive much pleasure from the relationships. Things begin to change, however, when Sam—a young disabled man working at his first job as a magazine intern—moves to her neighborhood. He meets Tuli at her regular coffee shop, and the two quickly hit it off. But it will take a lot more than some initial chemistry to break down Tuli’s emotional barriers, or to convince Sam that a relationship might be possible. Tuli must also deal with an exploitative man who’s pretending to be a therapist, frequent humiliation at work, and her pet fish, who narrates the story. Overall, it’s a recipe for a sometimes-sordid, sometimes-sentimental novel. Mosier has a pleasingly offbeat prose style, and his characters, from Sam and Tuli to the barista at their coffee shop hangout, are genuinely likable. The two leads’ early scenes together are particularly compelling. Unfortunately, the book is handicapped by a few crucial faults: The omniscient fish’s presence is baffling, particularly as he lusts after Tuli like the human men in her life do. (Must women be objectified even by the animals in their lives?) Many of the Manhattan-set details ring false; for example, Tuli at one point winds up on a farm while on a bender, and Sam is offered a free room to work as an intern at a poetry magazine. Also, Tuli’s job at a call center seems implausible after it’s revealed that she’s an heiress. Realism may not be Mosier’s goal, but the combination of these details may make it difficult for readers to truly empathize with the characters and fully engage with the narrative.
An uneven novel about a troubled woman.