This novel is successful in a few different ways: it’s funny, it’s real about emotions, it’s complex in the ways in which people talk to themselves, maybe especially in comparison to the ways in which we talk to others, but I think it’s most successful by acknowledging we inhabit a much different world from say, the 1990s (in which parts of this novel do take place) but that those differences create facets and changes, but don’t fundamentally change the nature of our world and how we tell stories. I am often reminded that the conversations that have sprung up in our zeitgeist about say Trump, Racism, MeToo, and other defining features in online conversations have been around for a long time, but the biggest change is how we talk about them. In one way, I think a lot of these issues are overly simplified by the constant flux of voices talking about them, often using academic language in overly simplified ways, and creating choice quips than more realized ideas. And there’s the issue of looking for a way to say the thing that doesn’t get you yelled at.
Jami Attenberg’s narrator is a smart and often capable woman of forty who understands complexity in the world, and at forty has some kinds of discretion about when and how to talk about the different things that happen. She’s fragile and broken in a lot of ways, and often just simply doesn’t want to be yelled at.
This is a novel that tells one connected story — the life of Andrea — but from several different times and view points. It’s often very funny and sad, and a little hollowing, but ultimately a solid novel.