I knew the basic plot going in—twenty-year old congressional intern Aviva Grossman has an affair with a married congressman, and her life is ruined, while his turns out just fine—but the actual format of the storytelling was a surprise almost the whole way through. I expected to hear the story from Aviva’s perspective, since she seems to be the center of the narrative, but the book actually opens with her mother Rachel’s POV. I loved Rachel as a narrator, and she turned out to be a surprisingly poignant window into the narrative.
We do get Aviva’s perspective years later, but her name is Jane Young now, and she’s left Aviva Grossman far behind. She has a life in Maine now with her daughter, and she’s very capable and is very much the person forged from all the mess of that scandal.
And then we switch narrators again, and again. And it’s at this point that you realize that Aviva’s scandal may be the center of the narrative, but it’s not just her story. It’s her mother’s and her daughter Ruby’s and it also belongs to the wife of the married congressman, who is still married to him after all these years. The last section, which SPOILER is written in a Choose Your Own Adventure format, I kid you not END SPOILER, is on the more experimental side, but it ended up really working for me, if nothing else emphasizing that choices are made, and you can’t take them back. All you can do is learn and move on as best you can.
This is also yet another case of a book fascinating me because it’s about how the story on the outside, the one people tell about you, isn’t necessarily true. It’s always more complicated than it seems. And I’m going to quote Jessica’s review here, because I can’t think of a better way to say it, “It’s a look at how the media treats women, how women treat women, and how we treat ourselves.”
I really recommend this book. I love Zevin’s writing, her characters, her whole aesthetic. It’s great.