What begins as a lighthearted love story and comedy of manners comes to encompass suicide attempts, mental institutions, death, broken families, legal transgressions and a possible killing.
Greenland's fourth novel (The Angry Buddhist, 2012, etc.) has two protagonists, and the chapters alternate between their first-person accounts. Jeremy Best is a 33-year-old financial lawyer on the fast track to partnership, with a sideline as a published poet under the name Jinx Bell. Spaulding Simonson is a 19-year-old student with a history of mental instability and a passion for poetry. When she walks into Jeremy’s office and lets him know she (somehow) knows he's Jinx, there are immediate sparks between them. He finds her attractive—and then some: “[H]er hair, the burnished gold found on coins and in youth and thereafter in bottles, fell in thick ringlets over her shoulders and down the middle of her back in the manner of a silent movie ingénue.” He thinks she's flirting with him and learns that she's the daughter of his boss, the senior partner who will decide his professional fate, which should be enough to make him steer clear. But if he was able to resist her allure, there wouldn’t be a novel. Spaulding is somehow more mature and less innocent, though she idealizes Jeremy as much as he does her: "Here was someone with a goal and a plan. He had a job where he made money and an art life, too. I wanted to know what he knew." There are other characters (the father, of course, and Jeremy's rivals on the partner track), but they're bit players, with Jeremy and Spaulding sharing the spotlight. He believes, or desperately wants to, that “[h]er soul was as old as the elements.” She sees him as someone who “seemed to have it figured out.”
Some of the complications that ensue are predictable, but others are so dark it remains a challenge for the author to retain his light touch.