It’s not hard to feel for Casey Peabody. She’s a 31-year-old writer living in a glorified shack in Boston while waiting tables to make ends meet. Burdened with massive student debt and dealing with officially sanctioned sexual harassment work, she’s also trying to deal with the sudden and shocking death of her mother.
Through all that Casey is also trying to finish a novel she’s been working on for six years. Over the years she’s seen her group of writer friends divide into two categories: those who have successfully published and those who gave up and went into something safer and more lucrative. Casey finds herself mostly alone in the middle, clinging to her novel (which is largely inspired by her mother’s Cuban childhood) as the embodiment of her youth and ambition. She’s uncertain what she would do without it and yet struggles mightily to keep going.
Under enormous strain, Casey’s troubles start piling up. Her landlord wants to sell the property she lives on and she can’t afford anything else, her boss is running out of patience with her, and the student loan people keep calling. It’s not an opportune time to meet someone, and yet Casey meets two men, nearly simultaneously, who offer starkly different paths to a livable future.
The first is Silas, a fellow struggling writer in a very similar financial position. Silas has recently suffered a loss of his own and Casey finds herself overwhelmed by her attraction to him despite his aloofness. The second is Oscar, a successful author as well as a widower with two children.
One thing Lily King does really well is characterization. Casey feels like a real person because her background is so unique and unexpected. Like a real person, not everything about her makes sense at first, but as you spend more time with her you get a fuller picture. Similarly, even minor characters come to life through small but meaningful details.
King writes well enough to draw the reader in and keep them invested, but I must admit that at a certain point (which I do not wish to spoil) the unlikeliness of the plot became an annoyance. There are elements of fantasy in the plot resolution that rankle.
Still, Writers & Lovers is full of enough good stuff to make it a commendable book, and King is someone I will strongly considering reading again.