In Seskis’ debut novel, a married woman abandons her old suburban life to start a new one in the city.
Attorney Emily Coleman lives a fairly ordinary life in suburban Chorlton, Manchester, England, with her husband, Ben, and her son, Charlie. She has loving parents and a close but difficult twin sister, Caroline (“Emily seemed embarrassed to be liked and yet everyone loved her, and Caroline was desperate to be loved and nobody did.”). After she learns that she’s pregnant again, she’s happy (“sickeningly so,” in her own estimation), but then she abruptly and mysteriously leaves her old life behind and moves into a seedy, ramshackle group home in North London. She takes a new name, Cat Brown, and slowly, hesitantly begins forging an entirely new existence. Her self-confidence wavers in the book’s early chapters; “It's all too much,” she often thinks, and she wants to “give up, not be here, melt into nothingness.” She soon befriends a female croupier in the West End named Angel and gradually builds a new life, including working at an advertising agency, drinking and taking drugs, and befriending a handsome, caring man named Simon. Seskis skillfully balances chapters showing the progress of Emily’s new life with others delving into characters’ pasts—from Emily’s father, Andrew, a womanizing salesman who’s “well aware of his reputation as the office sleaze-bag,” to Caroline, to Emily herself. The author reveals Emily’s motivations for leaving her family with great patience and narrative skill. At one point, Ben learns that Emily has a twin sister and wonders “how can there be two Emilies in the world?”; Seskis sets about answering that question with excellent dramatic pacing, dialogue and prose (“It was four o’clock and the sky was high and hungry, eating up the last of the winter light”), culminating in poignant concluding chapters which examine Emily’s decisions without sentimentality.
An evocative, skillful novel about the price of escape, and a very promising debut.