A hilarious debut novel about the tricky period between graduating from college and moving out of your parents’ house
What to do when you’ve just graduated from college and your plans conflict with those of your parents? That is, when your plans to hang out on the couch, re-read your favorite children’s books, and take old prescription tranquilizers, conflict with your parents plans that you, well, get a job?
Without a fallback plan, Eshter Kohler decides she has no choice but to take the job her mother has lined up for her: babysitting for their neighbors, the Browns.
It’s a tricky job, though. Six months earlier, the Browns’ youngest child died. Still, as Esther finds herself falling in love with their surviving daughter May, and distracted by a confusing romance with one of her friends, she doesn’t notice quite how tricky the job is … until she finds herself assuming the role of confidante to May’s mother Amy, and partner in crime to Amy’s husband Nate. Trapped in conflicting roles doomed to collide, Esther is forced to come up with a better idea of who she really is.
Both hilarious and heartbreaking, The Fallback Plan is a beautifully written and moving story of what we must leave behind, and what we manage to hold on to, as we navigate the treacherous terrain between youth and adulthood.
|Publisher:||Melville House Publishing|
|Product dimensions:||5.56(w) x 8.52(h) x 0.61(d)|
About the Author
This is Leigh Stein’s first novel, although at 26 she is already an accomplished writer. A former New Yorker staffer and frequent contributor to its “Book Bench” blog, her poetry has been published in numerous journals, been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and earned her Poets & Writers Magazine’s Amy Award. She lives in Brooklyn, where she works in children’s publishing and teaches musical theater to elementary school students.
What People are Saying About This
"Stein’s wry voice shines through... her self-aware take on the self-pitying recession-grad generation is compelling reading." —The Millions
"Stein, 26, captures the voice of the young 20-something prodigal daughter with the clarion call of authenticity in her debut novel. ... Stein’s light, accessible, self-deprecating prose makes this coming-of-age story a pleasure."—Publishers Weekly
"Stein's fluid style is peppered with wryness and pop-culture references...[she] seems poised to become the Lena Dunham of contemporary fiction."—ELLE
"Readers will endorse Esther Kohler’s voice as being not only funny, but also true. It echoes long after her story ends, and “The Fallback Plan’’ is a novel everyone under 30 will relate to with familiar pangs of self-loathing and sympathy."—Boston Globe
"An existential crisis of lost 20-somethings that pretty much everyone can relate to."—NYLON
"Cheeky, self-assured prose."—O: The Oprah Magazine
"Beautiful, funny, thrilling and true."—Gary Shteyngart (Super Sad True Love Story)
“Intimate, urgent, and laugh-out-loud funny, Leigh Stein's novel bravely investigates the splendor and tragedy of the end of youth with a sensitivity and lyrical deftness that will not disappoint. Think Franny and Zooey. Think Goodbye, Columbus. Think of this book as your next great read.”—Joe Meno (Hairstyles of the Damned, The Great Perhaps)
"[A] fantastic book whose charm and warmth beg for a second read-through."—InDigest Magazine
"This book has a universal quality, capturing a generation's angst quite like Franny and Zooey did when it was published in 1961."—Chicago Tribune
"The Fallback Plan is to this generation what Rick Moody’s The Ice Storm was to the previous generation, and The Catcher in the Rye before that."—Susan Salter Reynolds, Los Angeles Review of Books
" The Fallback Plan has got it all: Sex, love, drugs, death, infidelity and one very confused post-grad."—College Magazine
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
As a recent college graduate from Illinois, moved into the guest room and doing odd jobs, I wondered a little if I was being stalked while this book was written. I came to this book looking for answers, and the fact that I didn't find any explicit ones but ended happy was refreshing. I think the clinically depressed, pill-popping twenty-something skating through life is a bit overused, and occasionally frustrating, but the tone and style recover the stereotype. Most of the characters are cookie-cutter and half-baked (figuratively and literally), with Esther and May being the most intriguing, but for the length and scope of the book, this is actually perfect.
Predictable. Lacks development of plot and characters. I would not recommend this book to others
What had the potential for an insightful novel became a self serving meandering mess
The Good: After reading the blurb I was really excited because this book seemed to be the answer to a question I've been asking lately... where are all the books about 20-somethings that just graduated. I seem to only find either YA characters or older characters in books these days. So needless to say I was excited to see a 22 year old college graduate featured as the main character. Leigh's MC, Esther is so familiar she could be one of my friends. She is suffering from post-college anxiety and dealing with what so many of my friends are dealing with right now. Not only is she depressed about moving back in with her parents, but she has no job, no future plans and she is embarrassed about all of this. What I liked about this novel was the internal dialogue going on in Esther's head. She encounters some pretty heavy things and I think watching Esther muddle her way through it is much like watching ourselves do the same thing. The relationship she makes with the Browns is intriguing to me. I did like the way Leigh is forcing her readers to wonder what a "family" would look like after the death of a child.The Bad: I can appreciate what Leigh was trying to accomplish with the novel but I just don't think it achieved it quite successfully. There was so much more she could have done with Esther's character. I want to sympathize with Esther but most of the time I don't. She is the type of character that I want to shake and yell at saying, "get the hell over it." I felt I was more annoyed with Esther than anything and I'm not sure that is the way Leigh intended her readers to take Esther. There wasn't a lot of action and hardly any "plot" per say. I really wanted her to go more in depth with Amy, Nate and May. They were by far the most interesting part of the story. In fact...I felt like this was more Amy's story than it was Esther's. Perhaps that's what it should have been.Overall it was a nice, quick read but probably not a book that I will rave about weeks later. It does bring up an interesting idea about families that suffer the loss of a child and life afterwards. I give this book an C+
For some people, the time after college is a second adolescence. Responsibilities of exams and classes are over, but responsibilities of the real world haven¿t kicked in yet as recent graduates look for a job in their chosen field or continue to struggle to define what they want to do when they grown up.The latter is the situation facing Esther in Leigh Stein¿s The Fallback Plan. Having moved back in with her parents, Esther feels very much in between stages of her life. She drifts for a bit before landing a babysitting/nanny job with family friends. The family¿s youngest daughter died six months before the novel opens, and Esther¿s job involves entertaining the remaining daughter, May, while her mother works on a mysterious art project in the attic.Along the way, Esther indulges her previous college and adolescent side by hanging out in playgrounds smoking marijuana with childhood friends.The book moves quickly, and Stein draws clear characters at crossroads in their lives.The problem, unfortunately, is that it¿s hard for readers to care about characters who aren¿t sure whether or not they like themselves. Esther¿s inability to move forward as an adult could be an interesting character trait if Esther seemed more invested in moving forward or had strong feelings about it either way. Instead she drifts, a little too willing to accept whatever is thrown at her without being upset or joyful over her circumstances. Esther doesn¿t seem to have an opinion of herself and it¿s difficult for a reader to care much about her either.It¿s telling that the stories Esther tells May to pass the time are more interesting than Esther¿s own story. The original fairy tales center on a young panda girl whose travails mirror Esther¿s. When Esther falls for Jack, one of her childhood friends, he shows up in the panda¿s story.How the panda experiences the crush is not as predictable as what happens to Esther and Jack. Also predictable is the relationship between Esther and May¿s father.Yet, despite the predictability, nothing happens. Esther has a safe pseudo-affair with May¿s father, but it doesn¿t progress to the point of danger. She sleeps with Jack, but the lack of emotional consequences or effect on the plot makes it another ¿meh¿ event in Esther¿s life. Amy shows clear signs of being dangerously unhinged and Stein lays the groundwork for a big event that would threaten May or Amy that never materializes.The novel ends as it began. Esther recognizes that her childhood is over, but doesn¿t have a firm plan for the future or a firm grasp on who she wants to be. She¿s grown closer to her parents and recognized she wants more than meaningless sex and affairs, but the overall impression is that the events of the novel weren¿t that important to Esther, which makes them not that important to a reader.
The Fallback Plan: A Novel by Leigh Stein (New York: Melville House, 2012. 219 pp) Originally posted at wherepenmeetspaper.blogspot.com Leigh Stein is a first-time author. She lives in New York where she works in children¿s book publishing and teaches musical theatre. Her upcoming release, Dispatch from the Future is a collection of poems to be released in June 2012.Prolonged AdolescenceAs a musically-minded individual teaching choir, I¿ve always wondered: what is my fallback plan? What would I do if I couldn¿t get a job? I¿ve luckily never been thrust into that scenario, but many holding an arts degree are. The sad truth is that the arts degree doesn¿t do much in the marketplace. Sure, it helps hone one¿s craft; it helps someone to become a better musician, painter, or actor. However, no art gallery, bar scene, or theatre will say ¿you have a degree, you¿re hired!¿ A lucky few find a job with the aid of their degree, while others succumb to corporate life or barista-hood. Some, however, choose not to deal with the problem and move in with their parents in order to usher in an era of prolonged adolescence. Leigh Stein paints such a person, Esther (a pseudonym for herself), in her novella The Fallback Plan.Esther Kohler is a recent college graduate, and like so many others, completely unemployed with no prospect on the horizon. She ends up living with her parents, much to her disdain. She slides through life in the doldrums whilst drinking with her friends, Jack and Pickle. In contrast to the rest of the world, absolutely nothing happens in her life.¿In June, the monsoons hit Bangladesh. Chinese police discovered slaves in a brickwork factory who couldn¿t be sent home because they were too traumatized to remember anything but their own names, and Dr. Kevorkian was released from prison. In other news, I moved in with my parents¿ (3). Like so many graduates of the arts, she is forced to rely on a fallback plan, or at the very least, figure out what it would be.The Joys of Getting a Job As a graduate with the not-so-sought-after emphasis in theatre, Esther has no hope in the world for a job. So, she decides to get a job in babysitting. Well, she doesn¿t so much decide to do so¿it¿s thrust on her by her parents.¿I couldn¿t believe I now had a job. My job was going to be playing with a four-year-old? Part of my brain immediately attempted to calculate the amount of money I¿d get to spend on screenwriting books after I paid my parent¿s rent, part of my brain said, You¿re stoned, about to go on a drug run, and someone is going to trust you with their small child, and part of my brain cast me as Marry Poppins in an adaptation directed by Stanley Kubrick¿ (23).But, in the process of babysitting, she befriends the mom (her employer) and the daughter. The mom lost her first child, and by looking into her life, finds that depression can be deeply seated. Esther herself has been struggling with depression, both during and after college, and is having trouble coming to terms with her feelings.¿I knew I was depressed, but my hope was that maybe there was a brain tumor at the root of all this, something that would show up on a map of my cerebrum, something excisable. And then I came across the word weltschmerz¿ (69).Weltchmerz is defined as a mental depression or apathy caused by comparison of the actual state of the world with an ideal state. It¿s a mood of sentimental sadness. Esther, no doubt a mirror image of Leigh Stein, has to work through this sentimental sadness and figure out how to make life work. Forced to come to grips with her situation, this coming-of-age story is inextricably intimate and funny at the same time.The Fallback Plan paints a depressing and accurate picture regarding the status of the liberal arts degree in the United States. But by no means am I advocating for the lack of arts in schools, nor am I painting them as worthless. I teach the arts, have two degrees in music, and find t