A Queens resident becomes consumed by the desire to find a girl from his high school days in this novel.
Steven Lewis is just starting his adult life in New York after graduating with a sociology degree from a city university. He works for a music distribution company, has moved out of his parents’ house, and would be happy to see an uptick in his social life. He has recently been dating a shallow woman from the Bronx named Nancy, but he cannot let go of the thought of one girl from the past. Kelly Brennan, from his humanities class, is someone who always made him wonder, “What if?” He had gone as far as asking her to the prom, and she declined, but all these years later he still hopes there is the possibility of a relationship with her. Steven’s parents suddenly decide to move to Orlando, Florida, and he elects to accompany them. While working at a video store, he learns of the 9/11 attacks. He is filled with sadness and disbelief, but also a craving to return to New York, begin a career, and locate Kelly. Back in Queens, he becomes a pharmacy assistant and reconnects with Nancy. A chance encounter with Kelly’s mother, Emily, rekindles his obsession with Kelly, though he is distressed to learn she was killed in the World Trade Center on 9/11. As Steven spends more time with the grieving Emily, his yearning for the dead Kelly leads him to have ever stronger feelings for Emily. Duffy (Heartbreaker, 2015, etc.) expertly describes both Steven’s economic anxieties and his romantic longing for the girl who got away. The idea of Kelly as the perfect companion serves as a guiding force that seems to center him in the midst of many distractions. Whether someone can be closer to a dead person by dating her mother, though, remains a question that is certainly unique, and one that Steven explores to some extent in what is a readable but rambling book that fails to be altogether satisfying. Because Kelly is not alive, there are few possible conclusions to this story, and the chosen ending remains unconvincing.
A meandering tale of a singular relationship between two needy New York souls.