“The boundaries which divide Life from Death are at best shadowy and vague. Who shall say where the one ends, and where the other begins?” – Edgar Allan Poe
“Sometimes a person slips out of your life so easily,
you wonder if they were ever really there to begin with.”
“That’s how a person slips out of your life so easily.
Sometimes forgetting is simply waiting too long.”
My first thoughts were ‘What an original and profound novel’. The story of two young women, both newly arrived in New York City, was a very skillfully written debut.
Alice Lee, just turned eighteen years old, has arrived in New York via a bus from Wisconsin. Hers was a traumatic and lonely upbringing. Her mother commit suicide when she was only fourteen, and, most recently, she has lived with a former teacher who liked to take nude photos of her. He kicked her out when he realized how young she really was… fearing for his reputation. With money, and a valuable vintage Leica camera that she stole from him before she left, Alice is vulnerable and naive to the ways of the big city. Tragically, we know right away that she is found dead near the Hudson River soon after her arrival in the city.
Ruby Jones has travelled all the way from Australia. She arrives the very same day as Alice Lee, a chilly day in late March. She is attempting to distance herself from a toxic love affair. A relationship that has no future because her lover is engaged to be married to someone else… very soon.
“I think you generally experience memories from the outside in, like your old life is a movie you once starred in.”
The book eloquently captures the vulnerability of women who have little in the way of a support system. It brings home some all too unerring truths: you can be lonely even when you are in a city with millions of residents, and, women are sometimes viewed as victims by some entitled men.
This was in no way an aspersion against all men, for there were a few fine men in this book. Rather it seeks to reveal, in an empathetic way, that women have to be hyper-vigilant in these modern times. Vigilant of their own personal safety. And how, women should always trust their instincts.
This novel stresses the importance of human connection. The priceless value of true friendship.
Alice Lee narrates a good portion of this book. Even when she is dead, she is still there, following Ruby who found her body, seeking to learn how and when they will identify her body. In this respect it reminded me a bit of “The Lovely Bones” by Alice Sebold. It told of how Alice, at just eighteen anticipated many more years of living, learning, and loving. Of how, now that she is dead, she doesn’t want to be forgotten…
The city of New York is very much a character unto itself. Alice Lee LOVED the city almost as if it were a human being. Both the bad and the good side of the Big Apple are depicted in the pages of this book.
“Is our death fated?
Do we have a predestined, inescapable end, or is it all just arbitrary?”
This startling debut deserves to be read by all women, especially those who are most vulnerable. It is written with skill and with empathy. It poses some philosophical questions. Highly recommended! I will think of Alice every time I hear Otis Redding’s “Try a little tenderness“, which was her favourite song.
This review was written voluntarily and my rating was in no way influenced by the fact that I received a complimentary digital copy of this novel from Atria Books/Simon and Schuster via Edelweiss.ISBN: 9781982198992 – ASIN: B09RX41QWL – 320 pages
Jacqueline ‘Rock’ Bublitz is a writer, feminist, and arachnophobe, who lives between Melbourne, Australia and her hometown on the west coast of New Zealand’s North Island.
She wrote her debut novel Before You Knew My Name after spending a summer in New York, where she hung around morgues and the dark corners of city parks (and the human psyche) far too often.
She is now working on her second novel, where she continues to explore the grand themes of love, loss and connection.