Following in the tradition of the marital narrative, Hill’s debut novel tracks a young couple from meeting to marriage, divorce and resolution of their separate paths.
Amy and Dennis are not meant to be together. When they first meet in a video store, it’s Amy’s best friend, Bunny, whom Dennis pursues. Dennis and Bunny soon realize their incompatibility after a sexual encounter that makes Dennis a less than sympathetic character. The novel skips around in time, never staying too long in one phase of the relationship, jumping from the argument that sends Amy packing to the couple’s first meeting back to Dennis finding e-mails from Amy’s short adulterous affair. Unfortunately, the reader never invests in the relationship; Amy is a sour killjoy and Dennis a pedantic egomaniac, and the few times that Hill spends time on the positive aspects of their relationship—such as when Dennis tells Amy that hurting her would be like hurting himself and that she’s safe—feel forced. But Hill writes with a clean, clear prose, and his sense of pacing keeps the pages turning. The strongest sections come after the couple has broken and each embarks on personal journeys to get beyond the marriage; the characters become more likeable when not having to relate to each other. These scenes are interspersed with scenes from earlier times in the relationship, and Hill finally allows readers to follow the characters without interruption rather than requiring guesswork to figure out where in the chronology each scene lies. Dennis meets a 15-year-old nymphet with whom he embarks on a cross-country trip. Amy leaves her job as a publicist, becomes a teacher and gets involved with a colleague at the community college where she works. After both of these affairs, Amy and Dennis feel they can shed the pain and anger they’ve been carrying since their divorce.
Unappealing leads prevent this otherwise compelling exploration of human relationships from fully resonating.