McMillan’s debut novel looks at conflicts in both family and romantic relationships.
Nicki, a 37-year-old real estate appraiser, is about to buy her dream home, which she's planning to share with her 16-year-old son, Cody, and her boyfriend, Jake, a chef. Nicki is also investing in her future with Jake by funding his dream to open a restaurant. After Cody is suspended for truancy, Nicki’s world starts to collapse. Jake starts acting evasive and erratic, and Nicki’s estranged father, Ronnie, shows up on her doorstep hoping for reconciliation—and a home—after an early release from prison. When Jake bolts, Ronnie provides a strong male presence for Cody as Nicki licks her wounds in whiny conversations with her best friend, Peaches. McMillan’s protagonist is not an especially appealing or sympathetic narrator; Nicki is clingy and self-absorbed as well as judgmental. She reads the New York Times wedding announcements each week and romanticizes what she calls the "outliers: older couples, interracial couples, the couples who've obviously made (at some level) an arrangement." Readers might find Nicki histrionic and self-absorbed, and they won't find any refuge with Ronnie, either, though he's the novel's other point-of-view character. McMillan, a relationship writer, deposits nuggets of unremarkable insight in the book through Ronnie, a self-styled pop-psychology guru. It’s a device that tires quickly. Ronnie manipulates almost every woman he meets even if she's vulnerable or he knows he's not using his best judgment.
As the novel skids toward its predictable ending, the reader can’t be done with it fast enough.