A novel within a novel (within yet another novel) that aims for clever storytelling.
Joan’s beloved husband, Will, is a writer who has never finished a novel. Plagued by idea after fresh idea, Will starts dozens of projects but completes none of them. Joan supports him as best she can—even after he dies. At his funeral, family inquires about Will’s writing force Joan to lie that he did, in fact, finish a novel, and she announces that she’ll share it with them. Frenzied, Joan searches through Will’s manuscripts for one she can finish writing herself. After sorting through several (each painstakingly shared with the reader), Joan settles on a confused but ambitious story about twin brothers, Arlen and Arwin, and the trouble they find themselves in when a potential job is an elaborate conspiracy. Alternating between mourning her husband and imagining how he might encourage her to tell the story, Joan soldiers on. Here the story toggles between the writing of the novel and Joan’s experience as she writes it. Her version includes Will as a character, appearing as the author of the novel within the written novel. Joan struggles for closure—with both the work in progress and the loss of her beloved—and, miraculously, lands on a scene in her writing which may bring a satisfying ending to both. The novel within the novel is heavy with meandering dialogue. It’s clear that we’re watching the author grope for the story, but the effect grows more tiresome than enlightening. Joan shares enough about her love of Will that their marriage and her heartache are plausible, but this emotional strand is lost in the confusion of the metatext Joan struggles to complete. The final scene is notably sweet, except for the last paragraph, where a direct message to the reader deflates the magic mustered by Joan and Will’s final encounter.
An ambitious and flawed narrative meditation on the writing process.