A novel in stories that brings readers deep into the eccentric and neurotic mind of its protagonist.
Thomas (Dragging the Lake, 2006, etc.) links these 56 stories with a consistent voice. Alice—a lonely, at times suicidal woman—narrates the minutiae of her life with insight and wit. She's a word processor at a law firm, a job she compares to being a paramedic: “somewhere between an emergency room resident and a taxi driver.” Thomas’ prose in these episodic vignettes is tight and vivid. In each two-to-three page installment, solipsistic Alice is given black humor and memorable one-liners. In “¿Qué Pasó?” she recounts a short interaction with a co-worker and examines issues of love, power and language. She determines, “[n]othing is as infuriating as someone who acts as if they’re just saying something and not doing something by saying it.” These sharp observations are characteristic of Alice's perspective. As she looks at the Golden Gate Bridge, thinks about marine biology and discusses opera, she considers the soul, consequences and death. In “Capital Punishment,” she notes, “[s]ometimes suicide is nothing more than a way of saying ‘No, actually I was not being ironic. I meant it.’ ” In “Naming a Baby,” she remembers one particularly biting comment her mother made about her grandmother’s cooking. She decides, “[t]hat’s the worst, isn’t it? To take the one thing someone does well, the one wildflower that barely survives in the shadow of their mountain of mediocrities, and tell them that’s it, that’s what I hate about you.” To a reader looking for an action-packed plot, Alice’s digressions and the extreme interiority of the book might become exhausting. But there is a payoff; the stories function as building blocks that fit within an overarching narrative. They proceed chronologically as Alice’s depression intensifies and she struggles to find a way out from her abyss.
With emotional resonance, an innovative structure and a unique narrator, Thomas crafts a book that's greater than the sum of its parts.