Community Board

Mariner: Houghton Harcourt. Mar. 2023. 272p. ISBN 9780062959379. $30. F
Conklin’s third novel (following The Last Romantics) tells the feel-good story of Darcy Clipper, a 30-year old woman whose life has spiraled downward. She’s lost her job, and her husband has left her for another woman. Upon retreating to her small hometown in New England, she discovers that her parents have moved temporarily to Arizona to try out a retirement community. Conklin cleverly constructs Darcy’s story around her emails, many that remain in draft form only, while weaving in messages from the community board. These missives inject amusing insights into the community’s overall character while introducing readers to its various members. Darcy gradually begins pulling herself out of her morose state of self-isolation, taking on a series of odd jobs like finding lost pets. When she takes a part-time job assisting stay-at-home dad Marcus, she stretches herself emotionally, though her overall lack of maturity can be vexing. Marcus is seeking to build a playground for the local children on the spacious property he owns with his husband, a project that creates divisiveness within the community, owing to both xenophobia and homophobia and fueled by a prominent community member’s ambition to build a casino.
VERDICT Conklin offers a positive message about a community working through its quirkiness and differences to solve problems together, but its upbeat message may not be enough to counterbalance Darcy’s adolescent self-absorption.
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