This starts out almost like an Elena Ferrante novel – it is the story of female friends, or more accurately frenemies. Both girls are young, but on the cusp of becoming teenagers – and so they think they’re ready to act as adults. The majority of the book takes place in early 1980s San Francisco, in an elite beach community with a view of the bridge and easy access to the ocean. Today, that area might be home to uber rich tech bros, but in the early 1980s it was a mixture of obscenely wealthy people and slightly more regular wealthy people – the protagonist’s family is of the latter. Eulabee is a bright young woman from a loving, grounded family Her Swedish mother is an incredibly capable nurse, the sort of woman who doesn’t hire house cleaners because no one can clean her house better than she can. Her father runs an art gallery, and is prone to kind if droning lectures. Eulabee has a younger sister, Svea, with whom she has a sweet if a bit distant relationship.
I picked up this book because it was billed as a mystery, but the book is truly much more of a coming-of-age novel. At the start of the novel, Eulabee has an extremely close relationship with three other girls – and her best friend of all is Maria Fabiola (never just Maria). Maria Fabiola is the prototypical Queen Bee – she’s wealthy, beautiful, and mature beyond her years. It seems as though the spotlight loves her, and she loves it right back with equal measure. At one point, a group of boys refers to her as “Maria Fabulous” – and that more apt than even they will know.
While walking to school one morning, the girls encounter a strange car. Eulabee and Maria Fabiola perceive what happens quite differently, and when Eulabee refuses to go along with her friend’s version of events they have a falling out. By the end of the novel, the girls have been embroiled in some major news stories, but the question is which of these “fabulous” stories are true. Eulabee must navigate the weight of deception while also managing her life in her privileged world. The final chapter reunites the old friends for a brief moment, providing closure for both Eulabee and the reader (as much as can be had, anyway).
I generally enjoyed the writing – and I was today-years-old when I learned that she is married to Dave Eggers! There was quite a lot of heart, despite the iciness between the girls for much of the novel. Even when their activities were on the mean spirited side, there was something contemplative and honest about the narration. I’d give this book 3.5 stars (rounding up to 4)- it was of great quality, and I enjoyed it – it probably would not make my “best of” list, but it was worth reading.