This book has been making the rounds in previews for 2018 and on the surface, that makes a lot of sense. It’s a novel told through a series of different types of writings and narrative pieces (emails, journal entries, third-person narration, first-person narration, q and a with an interlocutor that feels like a therapist but could also be a self-reflection). The novel itself is about a woman in her 40s who has been married for 20 plus years, has two college-aged children, and has recently connected (in a deep way) with a poet with whom she shares an artistic, religious/spiritual, and physical connection. The novel then tells her history, their connection in multiple forms, and her attempts to make sense, decide upon, rationalize, and process the affair as it happens.
In a lot of ways, I wanted to like this novel. As soon as I started, I began to become suspicious of it. It draws upon several sources, some of which I trust and some I don’t, and when it really attempted to make sense of its own morality and psychological reflections I mostly got bored or annoyed.
It’s a novel with little conscious irony, and that’s hard to take. Deciding to have an affair and deciding whether or not that affair is cause to dissolve your married/family history is obviously a huge step. As far as the morals of the affair goes, I was more than willing and happy to follow the protagonist on her journey to figure it out.
But its little nods to contemporary writers whose writing I don’t like or trust as a kind “introspective” journey and borrowing from sources to make sense of things felt both lazy and unsatisfying. I did happen to like the way she considered her affair through religious texts but that lost its appeals with the other sources. It also committed a “I HAVE AN MFA LOOK AT ME” sin that too many books and movies have been using recently and that’s referencing and using Clair de Lune in text. I also didn’t like the use of casual uses of domestic abuse used as out of sync justification for the affair. I kind of feel use whatever you want to justify whatever you want, so my issue isn’t with the actual character but with the novelist’s choice in those moments.