Topics of Conversation

Knopf. Jan. 2020. 224p. ISBN 9780525656289. $24. F
DEBUT This first novel follows the narrator at intervals from 2000 to 2017, as she progresses from nanny to graduate student, wife, adulterer, alcoholic, mother, and single mother. As the story begins, she is looking for approval from adults she admires, so insecure that she does not really understand how to “do” adulthood herself. As the story unfolds, she witnesses adult life from afar as her friends weather various crises but declines to join them, rejecting responsibility and preferring to be a submissive partner in her relationships. This strategy does not work well. Her marriages fail, she starts drinking to compensate, and as a single mother her refusal to engage hurts her child. After a long talk with her mother, she looks for new ways to lead her life, even entering rehab. But can she accept that her life is her responsibility alone?
VERDICT Popkey writes in a stream-of-consciousness style that gives her novel a dreamlike quality. Though readers must make the connections among the narrator’s many changes in location and situation, the result is finally thought provoking. Fine for general fiction audiences.

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