I kept wanting to like this book, but it kept whiffing on things that felt egregious. And by the end I’d soured on it. Like her previous novel, I read this one straight through, and maybe that was part of it, but these moments kept sticking out to me, beyond the somewhat derivative story.
We are following Casey (Camilla) during her 31st year. She’s an aspiring novelist with a writing degree, on year six of her novel. She’s fresh from a writer’s retreat, her mother has died, and she’s working in a terrible Boston restaurant (terrible, but fancy-ish). And it’s 1997. She’s been on a date with Silas, an inspiring writer her own age who is wonderful, unpredictable (but safe), and a little bohemian. She also meets an older man, an established novelist with two young sons and a dead wife. She’s split. The novel has a lot of promise and it holds together pretty well. The voice is good, but the further in we get the less convinced I am that I am reading something that fully makes sense. Here’s a few small moments that turned into cracks for me.
We are meant to believe that a 47 male American writer who’s written a novel called Born to Run (Blegh, I know) has never heard of “Casey at the Bat” and it’s taken as normal.
The writer makes an offhand reference to a pretty obscure short story by the English writer Elizabeth Taylor, who was long out of print in 1997. This story and all of Elizabeth Taylor’s writing has made a resurgence in recent years–the story when it was read for the New Yorker podcast in about 2009 when the collected stories where published. So did the 31 year old writer from 1997 know this story….or maybe does the 57 year novelist writing in 2019 know it?
There’s cloddy misrepresentation of Cormac McCarthy’s All the Pretty Horses that reads like the author’s opinion, not the writer’s and also doesn’t work as a “character opinion” moment.
And lastly, and maybe worse, she’s been dogsitting for ages, and doesn’t realize the dog is a girl. Nope.
So this one soured on me as I worked through it.