In Elliott’s debut novel, a man’s seemingly random meeting with an enigmatic woman changes his life completely.
Kind, courteous and affable 36-year-old graphic designer Trevin Lambrose is working in a Chicago office, meeting deadlines and sweating over projects that don’t interest him. He has resumes out everywhere; while he’s on break taking a call-back from one such inquiry, he begins to feel a sense of upheaval in the settled order of the world. The novel does an effective job of making Trevin’s battered optimism feel grounded and believable; he’s depressed by the morning news—shootings, earthquakes, poverty, the ongoing U.S recession, etc. So when Trevin starts feeling energy-currents and seeing floating blue blobs of invisible plasma, readers are invested enough in his character to feel fascinated by his sense of unbalance. At the heart of this feeling is his beautiful new girlfriend, Constance Summerlin, the novel’s primary change-bringer and most fascinating character; in one of the book’s many disarmingly homely turns of phrase, Trevin refers to her face as “sweet as sugar beets.” As Trevin’s job search continues and the pair visit his parents in Rochester (loving mother, funny, acerbic dad), Constance stresses over the memories these incidents will form. The novel gradually and adroitly implies that reminiscence is somehow the key to her murky origins; “I could live in those memories forever,” a sweet old lady at a nursing home muses to Constance, “Wouldn’t that be something? Wouldn’t that be Heaven? We’d make up our own paradise—all personally constructed from our best times.” When the narrative reaches its well-orchestrated climax and Constance’s true nature is revealed to Trevin, his parents and their friends, these words take on an expertly prepared new level of meaning.
An odd, ultimately uplifting modern-day fable.