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A dazzling, razor-sharp debut novel about a woman whose obsession with the beautiful actress on her block drives her to the edge.
I’ve never crossed their little fenced-in garden, of course. I stand on the sidewalk in front of the fern-and-ivy-filled planter that hangs from the fence—placed there as a sort of screen, I’m sure—and have a direct line of view into the kitchen at night. I’m grateful they’ve never thought to install blinds. That’s how confident they are. No one would dare stand in front of our house and watch us, they think. And they’re probably right: except for me.
In this taut and thrilling debut, an unraveling woman, unhappily childless and recently separated, becomes fixated on her neighbor—the actress. The unnamed narrator can’t help noticing with wry irony that, though she and the actress live just a few doors apart, a chasm of professional success and personal fulfillment lies between them. The actress, a celebrity with her face on the side of every bus, shares a gleaming brownstone with her handsome husband and their three adorable children, while the narrator, working in a dead-end job, lives in a run-down, three-story walk-up with her ex-husband’s cat.
When an interaction with the actress at the annual block party takes a disastrous turn, what began as an innocent preoccupation spirals quickly, and lethally, into a frightening and irretrievable madness. Searing and darkly witty, Looker is enormously entertaining—a psychologically suspenseful and fearlessly original portrait of the perils of envy.
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About the Author
Laura Sims lives outside of New York City with her family. Looker is her debut novel.
Read an Excerpt
It was Mrs. H who started calling her the actress, making it sound like she was one of those old Hollywood legends—Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly, Lauren Bacall. That may have been accurate early in her career, when she was a serious indie star, but now her fiercely sculpted, electric-blue-clad body adorns the side of nearly every city bus I see. It’s an ad for one of those stupid blockbusters—and she isn’t even the main star, she’s only the female star—so she’s a sellout, like all the rest. It’s disappointing only because she belongs to us. To our block, I mean.
And here she comes—passing so close to where I sit on my stoop that I can see the tiny blue bunny rabbits embroidered on her baby’s hat. She has him strapped to her chest in that cloth contraption all the moms have. It should look ludicrous, the baby an awkward lump tied to the front of her white linen sundress, but somehow the actress pulls it off. She more than pulls it off—as he peers up at her she lowers her head and shakes her sleek auburn hair in his face. He squeals in delight. They look like they’re being filmed right now, like they’re co-starring in a shampoo commercial, but there’s only me watching. She knows I’m sitting here but she doesn’t turn her head when she passes by. She just stares straight ahead with that slight smile, meant to be mysterious, I’m sure. I see your airbrushed body on the bus almost every day! I want to shout. I take a long drag on my cigarette and blow a cloud of smoke after her and the babe.
Later on, riding the subway home after my night class, I wonder about the sad sacks filling my train car. What are their twelve-hour workdays like? Full of tedium and rage? Sullen acceptance? The women’s faces have gone slack and gray by this time of night. The men’s shirts are rumpled, with sweat stains at the pits. A few reek of cigarettes and booze. There they sit, swaying and bumping in the unclean air. Does the actress ever take the subway? Maybe once in a while, to prove that she’s a regular person. But usually there’s a car outside her house, idling, waiting to whisk her anywhere she wants or needs to go. “To the park,” I imagine her saying. To the theater, to the trendy restaurant I’ve never heard of, to the Apple store, to the apple orchard upstate. Meanwhile I sit on the stoop or shrug myself up, back and legs aching, to find my greasy Metrocard and join the tide of commoners underground. Does she remember how hot it is down on the platform in late summer? And how cold it gets in winter? Until you step inside the train car and have to shrug out of your heavy coat and scarf (if you can, packed as you are like sardines) because it’s steaming and suddenly so are you. Does she remember these and other indignities of “regular person” city life? Does she breathe a sigh of relief every time she passes one of the station entrances in her sleek black car? I would. I’m certain I would. The past would seem like a distant bad dream. Or a joke.
I pass by the actress’s house on my way home, as usual. A rich yellow glow spills from the garden-level windows of her brownstone. I’ve never seen a prettier, more welcoming room in all my life, and I want so badly to be inside it. The hardwood floor, the stainless steel appliances, and the wood-topped island at the heart of the kitchen all gleam under the yellow light. Closer to the window, there’s a cozy play area with expensive-looking toys strewn across a simple beige carpet. Wooden animals, an elaborate dollhouse, a riding toy for the baby. Only the best for her three kids. Only the handmade, the safest, the locally sourced, the organically grown. In that, she and her husband are no different from everyone else around here, coddling their children with overpriced toys, clothes, and food—and then the kids will grow up hating their parents anyway, just like the ones raised on spankings, secondhand smoke, and Oscar Meyer lunchmeats do.
Tonight, the husband leans on the kitchen island, chatting comfortably with the cook as she works. The husband is a screenwriter—that’s how he and the actress met, he co-wrote one of her earliest films. He’s handsome, of course—Iranian-American, with shining dark eyes and a lush but neatly trimmed black beard. Now that’s a beard. Not like the straggly hipster beards you see around here. The husband could be a movie star himself, but he remains a writer. Happy to be in her shadow, I suppose. Or not happy, merely biding his time before he leaves her for the nanny...or the cook? Either would be a very poor choice, considering what he’d be leaving behind. The two girls are seated in the play area, organizing the dollhouse. Bickering, I think. The eight year-old girl, an exact replica of the actress, with her auburn hair and wide-set green eyes, brushes the six year-old’s hand away from a miniscule wardrobe, and then moves it herself. The younger sister pouts, folding her arms over her chest and glaring at the back of her sister’s head. She has her father’s dark hair and dark eyes. The two of them look like cousins rather than sisters. The black-haired, green-eyed baby, on the other hand, is a perfect mix of his parents’ genes; he sits behind the girls, chewing placidly on some sort of squeezie toy shaped like a giraffe.
The actress herself sits alone at the kitchen table in the back of the room with her face lighted by her laptop screen, typing away at something—an e-mail? A novel? A tweet to her followers and fans? I know she tweets—or someone tweets for her—but she isn’t very active on Twitter. She mostly re-tweets women’s rights activists, left-leaning politicians, and her famous friends. I tried following her on Instagram once, thinking I’d get a window into her innermost life, but it was just a carefully managed picture parade. Magazine-style shots of things like fresh blueberries heaped in a child’s hand (#summer!), the sunset from an airplane window (#cominghomeatlast), one artfully blurred, close-up “selfie” of her and her husband’s faces (#datenight). Maybe it wasn’t a curated account, maybe it really was her posting, but I knew I wouldn’t find any intimate moments on Instagram that could match what I saw through her window almost daily.
A full glass of wine sits by her hand. Too close, I want to say. I lean toward the window. You should move that wine away from your laptop—I lost one that way, once. But nothing will happen to the actress’s laptop—she won’t spill the wine, and even if she does, won’t she just laugh as a staff member mops up the mess and sets a gleaming new computer before her? And then continue as she was, typing merrily away, completely unscathed?
I’ve never crossed their little fenced-in garden, of course. I stand on the sidewalk in front of the fern-and-ivy-filled planter that hangs from the fence—placed there as a sort of screen, I’m sure—and have a direct line of view into the kitchen at night. I’m grateful they’ve never thought to install blinds—that’s how confident they are. No one would dare stand in front of our house and watch us, they think. And they’re probably right: except for me.
People pass behind me, probably mistaking me for her, the golden one relaxing for a moment in the cool night air. Was that her? They wonder. But they don’t turn back to look—it would be too intrusive. Sometimes I even pretend to be her when someone walks by. I straighten up a bit, try to hold my head at that particular angle she often does, try to act like I’ve just stepped away from my arduous, exalted life. By the time I’ve made this transformation in posture and attitude, they’re already gone, and it’s just me, alone in the darkness.
In The Sultan of Hanover Street, a moody indie film from ten years ago, she played the adult daughter of the star, Richard McKane, who looked 50 though he was surely in his 70s by then. She proved herself in Sultan, especially in the hospital scene. She played it straight, without tears or cheap sentimentality. She was captivating. I remember sitting in the dark next to Nathan, studying her face for the first time: the sharp cheekbones and those giant green eyes. Her features loomed large, unbearably beautiful, as though she belonged to some glorious alien race. I fixed my inferior eyes on that face and felt it lift me out of my seat, out of my life for a moment. The warmth of Nathan’s hand in mine brought me back, held me down, made me thankful to be exactly where and who I was.
Nathan. That hand is gone, and has taken him with it. Or vice-versa. Whatever. He’s gone.
So she gathered her accolades for the role in Sultan—not an Oscar, but a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress, I think? And glowing reviews. She did more indie work for a while, spreading her roots through the Hollywood soil, building her rep as an indie darling, and then? She sold. Right. Out. She signed on to do a Michael Bay movie—something with a tsunami and killer robots. What a joke. But it was a huge hit with the masses and it made her famous. She promptly married her screenwriter boyfriend, bought her house here, and started having babies. Her first two came the standard two years apart—the boy an unconventional five-plus years later. What happened in the intervening years? Fertility issues like mine? Marital trouble? Or was the third child one of those “happy accidents”? Maybe it was none of the above. Maybe one day she woke up, hungering for another baby, and so she went and had one—just like that. I wonder if she’ll stop at three—why should she, with others to do the messy work? I see her with the kids, but rarely with more than one at a time. The other moms in this neighborhood teeming with families pile their strollers with two, three, even four kids at a time, struggling and cursing under their breaths as they push uphill toward the park. But the actress makes parenting look glamorous and fun. She’s always stylishly dressed, even in casual clothes, and I can’t imagine her breaking a sweat. If I were a local mom, I would hate her. It isn’t as easy as you make it look! I would shout through her ground-floor windows. Imagine how my voice would pierce the cozy domestic scene! The kids would run to the windows, hands and faces pressed to the glass. The baby might burst into tears. The husband would furrow his handsome brow and start immediately for the door. Who goes there? I imagine him calling into the night. And the actress? She’d glance up for a moment with a distant, distracted smile, take a sip from her wine glass, and go back to typing away on her laptop.
The actress’s baby is screaming his head off in front of my building. The nanny leans her head close to his in the stroller and shushes him gently, waving a toy in his face and letting him grab it. He continues to scream. She rummages in the diaper bag slung across the stroller handles and then sighs exasperatedly. Finally she notices me, smoking on the front stoop, just a few feet away. We’ve exchanged smiles and brief greetings over the past months, whenever she’s passed by with the stroller. Once, I got up the nerve to say, “Cute boy,” and she replied, “Yes, but he’s a handful,” in a cheerful, maternal way. I fought the urge to ask if the baby was hers—knowing, of course, that it wasn’t—but hoping it would prompt her to share some tidbit about her boss. Even to hear her say the actress’s name would have given me a little thrill. “I’ve left his pacifier at home,” she says now. “Oh no,” I say, frowning sympathetically. The child’s screams seem to crescendo at the word “pacifier.” She starts to turn around for home with him, shaking her head, when I stand abruptly and say, “Wait.” She looks up at me, takes in the cigarette still smoking in my hand. I drop it, crush it under my heel, and go down the steps to her. “I’ll watch him for a minute while you run back. It’s no trouble, really.” She starts to protest; I can see her weighing the convenience of going back without the cumbersome stroller versus the potential anger of her employers if they were to find out. But how would they find out? I’d never tell. “I don’t mind a screaming little one,” I say confidingly, looking her in the eyes and placing a hand on her arm. “They live so close. It will only take you a second, right?” She glances back at her employer’s house—ten, fifteen steps away, tops!—then looks back at me. “Right,” she says. “Thank you. I won’t be a minute.” And she speed-walks down the block. So here I am, alone with the actress’s baby. He may be red-faced and screaming, but he is all mine. So delicious, waving his little arms in the air, arching his back against the straps that hold him in. I kneel down in front of him and wriggle my fingers in front of his face, making clucking noises with my tongue. He stares at me and screams even louder, writhes all the more powerfully in his seat. The poor thing! I start to unbuckle him. I will hold him to me, smell his head, brush my lips over his downy hair. But the damn buckles are so complicated, and before I can get him out, the nanny materializes beside me. She pops the pacifier in his mouth, thanks me profusely, and pushes the stroller along up the street.
Just like that, he’s gone. Gone like Nathan. Gone like the baby we never had. I drag myself back up the steps and inside.
Upstairs, everything’s a mess. The cat—the damn cat, Nathan’s cat—has tracked her litter through the kitchen again. I had the leak beneath the kitchen sink fixed days ago, but the cabinet still reeks of mildew. Romantic brownstone living! Trash piled in the can, dirty laundry piled in the hamper. Nathan used to do all that—clean up after the cat, take out the trash, take care of the laundry. I try to keep up but I’ve been barely functional since he left.
I’m not alone, though, I tell myself: I have my books. My student papers to grade. My students, I suppose. I have my colleagues at school, too—a few, at least, who aren’t self-important jerks, lecherous drunks, or socially awkward weirdos. Or all of those rolled into one (which would make: my department chair). I also have two or three old friends, one of whom I see regularly for lunch. That’s the sum total of my life, since Nathan left six weeks ago. Oh, and Cat, the stupid cat that Nathan’s had since grad school...who’s now been abandoned just like me. Here we are, unlikely pair in misery, doing our best to stay out of each other’s way. I feed her to keep her alive—that’s it.
I walk past the actress on my way home from the grocery store. Our eyes meet for a moment, then she looks away. You’re ugly, I think. Without meaning to. But it’s true—at least today, in this afternoon light, she looks too raw, too hugely featured. Her eyes bulge, her lips are almost obscenely plush, and her cheekbones jut beneath her thin skin. In the mirror at home, I push my fingers around my face. Small nose, thin lips, and nearly invisible cheekbones. But I’ve got fairy-tale eyes—bright blue, almond-shaped. When the actress looked at me today, maybe she thought: you should be on the screen. Maybe that’s why she had to look away.
We’ve spoken only once, at last year’s block party. The neighborhood kids—including her two girls—were thrashing around inside the net walls of the bouncy house. Grown-ups were gathered in loose circles nearby, standing or sitting on folding chairs, chatting aimlessly, pleased at the effortless parenting and the excuse to drink beer at noon. I was standing in front of our house with my dish of watermelon-and-feta orzo salad in hand, waiting for Nathan to come down, when I saw her from the corner of my eye. She walked over to the food table, holding a bag from The Larder, a gourmet food shop new to the neighborhood. I made a beeline for the table, brandishing my dish. I flashed her a smile. Our eyes met. “Where’s that?” I blurted out, pointing at her bag. “What?” she said in her famously husky voice. “Oh. The Larder. It’s just two blocks from here. Delicious stuff.” I nodded, watching her unload container after container of costly gourmet sides: parmesan roasted acorn squash, Portobello mushrooms sautéed in wine, grilled shrimp and octopus salad, braised bacon-wrapped endives—dishes it would take all day for some ragged woman like me to cook. I scrambled to think of what to say next, how to keep her interested in staying there with me. “Looks good!” I said at last, hating what must be the desperate-looking grin on my face. But she smiled back, generous soul, and then floated away in her ankle-length burnt-orange sundress and floppy straw hat, back to her beautiful house. I watched her go, feeling melted inside. Like I’d been touched by the warm, immense hand of a goddess. When the feeling left a few moments later, shame replaced it. It crept up my neck in a hot flush. What had I said? “Looks good!” Like some half-wit. Some rube.
I’m interesting! I wanted to shout. I’m somebody, too! But then Nathan was beside me, slipping his arm around my waist, and the self-loathing dropped away. After an hour of chatting with neighbors, Nathan at my side, I’d forgotten the whole stupid scene. Well, not the scene, but at least I’d let go of the deep humiliation. I barely turned my head, later, when the actress reappeared, radiant and cool as ever. I could be immune to her sometimes, back then.
There’s a scene in the actress’s second movie, Girl with Dog, an earnest indie rom-com, where she tells her friend, “Love makes you interesting. It makes everyone interesting.” She delivers the line with such gusto, her green eyes bright and even slightly moist. The friend scoffs and says, “Yeah, right. Everyone but me.”
Reading Group Guide
This reading group guide for Looker includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.
In this taut, riveting debut, an unhappily childless and recently separated woman becomes fixated on her neighbor—the actress. Though she and the actress live just a few doors apart, a chasm of professional success and personal fulfillment lies between these two women. The actress, a celebrity with a charmed career, shares a gleaming brownstone with her handsome husband and their three adorable children, while the narrator, working in a dead-end job, lives in a run-down, three-story walk-up with her ex-husband’s cat.
An interaction with the actress at the annual block party takes a disastrous turn and what began as an innocent preoccupation turns into a stunning—and lethal—unravelling. Taking up questions of success, celebrity, women’s roles, obsession, and privacy, Looker deftly reveals the perils of envy.
Topics & Questions for Discussion
1. At the very beginning of the novel, the narrator says that the actress “belongs to us. To our block, I mean,” (page 1). Why does she correct herself? And how does this set up the narrator’s increasingly intense feelings about the actress?
2. The narrator is very familiar with the actress’s roles, thinking, for instance, of her breakout in The Sultan of Hanover Street, which she watched with Nathan. How does her engagement with the actress’s many on-screen roles color her understanding of the actress as a wife, mother, and neighbor?
3. One of the reasons for the dissolution of the narrator’s marriage seems to be that the narrator was unable to conceive a child. How does this impact the narrator’s feelings about herself?
4. The narrator teaches her students that Emily Dickinson poems are “full of sex and rage,” (page 55). Why are these themes particularly resonant? Are there other ways of interpreting the poems she assigns?
5. When the narrator has lunch with her friend Shana, she at first believes she’s getting “appreciative looks” from every man in the room (page 58), but then realizes this might not be the case. How does this shift in reality complicate your understanding of the narrator’s reliability? What are other instances of her unreliability?
6. Describe the narrator’s transition from tolerating Cat to desperately holding on to her. How does she convince herself that Cat belongs with her?
7. When the narrator feels insecure in front of her students, she wears an outfit that “mirrors the one the actress wore to teach in every single scene of Working Class,” (page 83). Why? How would you describe the narrator’s feelings towards the actress?
8. The narrator fills up the room once intended for her and her husband’s child with the actress’s discarded family belongings, making the room into a kind of shrine. How do the narrator’s changing feelings about these belongings illuminate her moods?
9. Why do you think the narrator is so fixated on the block party?
10. Why does the narrator engage with Bernardo? Is he the unstable one, or is she?
11. After her months-long obsession with the block party, the narrator’s interaction with the actress does not go as expected. Why do you think the narrator, even after the incident with Nathan, chooses to go to the actress’s house? What does she hope to get out of the experience?
12. The narrator assigns Elizabeth Bishop’s “One Art” to her students (page 141). How does it speak to the way the narrator has responded to losing the things she once had—her job, her marriage, the possibility of a child?
13. On her final day with Cat, why does the narrator make the decision to act as she does? Is it planned, or an act of desperation?
14. The narrator envisions achieving a rapturous closeness with the actress as the novel comes to an end. Are these just fantasies, or are they more sinister than that?
15. How did you feel after spending so much time in the narrator’s head? When you finished reading, did you have sympathy for her? What did you think was going to happen to her afterwards?
Enhance Your Book Club
1. Read some of the poems the narrator assigns in class: Emily Dickinson’s “Wild Nights – Wild Nights!” and “Come slowly – Eden!”; Yosa Buson’s “The camellia”; Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself”; John Donne’s “Batter my heart, three-person’d God”; Sylvia Plath’s “Ariel,” “Lady Lazarus,” and “Fever 103°”; Wanda Coleman’s “American Sonnet (10)”; and Elizabeth Bishop’s “One Art.” How do these poems deepen your understanding of the novel and the narrator’s mindset?
2. The narrator finds solace—and obsession—in the actress’s films. Are there movies or actors you feel particularly connected to? What and who are they?
3. To read more about Laura Sims and Looker, go to https://www.laurasims.net/.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 Stars Review by Heather Late Night Reviewer Up All Night w/ Books Blog Looker is the debut novel by author Laura Sims. This novel is being marketed as a psychological thriller. I don’t feel like that is quite accurate. It is definitely psychological, but I never felt like it was a “thriller”. I was nearly halfway through before I realized that nothing “thrilling” was going to happen. However, it becomes apparent the narrator (not named) is going through some kind of mental breakdown, which makes the book more like a character study. From that perspective, it is much more interesting to read. The narrator has separated from her husband after years of unsuccessful attempts to have a baby. She now lives alone, in the affluent New York City neighborhood that she shared with her husband, but only because he prepaid the rent before leaving her. He leaves his cat, Cat, with her, but she doesn’t seem to care about the pet until her husband indicates he wants the cat with him. Then, she lavishes affection on her. She becomes obsessed with a young actress who has moved into the neighborhood with her husband and children. She seems to hate and resent anyone and everyone she encounters. People that she calls friends seem to attract much of her disdain. Makes the reader wonder if she were to have her heart’s desire, a baby, would she even be capable of loving it. If I could suckle a child myself, would I feel the same? Maternally virtuous, like I was growing a future citizen of the nation, but simultaneously disgusted and trapped, clamoring to be free from the leech at my breast? Looker was interesting, but difficult to get into. Ultimately, I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys psychological character studies, but wouldn’t characterize it as a thriller.
Looker is Laura Sims' debut novel. I found the cover interesting - a woman's image defaced by what seems to be various shades of lipstick. And the title as well. A looker can be used to describe an attractive woman or someone who simply watches. I was curious to see what I would find inside. The narrator of Looker is unnamed throughout the book. She's a woman working a job she doesn't enjoy, living in a run down three floor walkup and her husband has left her. But the Actress lives at the end of her street. A woman who has everything the Narrator wants - a beautiful home, a family, a loving husband, fame and fortune. And the Narrator can't help herself - she watches, she imagines and she wants that life. When she actually has a small interaction with the Actress at the neighbourhood block party, the Narrator spirals even more out of control. I chose to listen to Looker. Katherine Fenton was the reader and she did an absolutely fantastic job of capturing this mercurial, unpredictable and downright frightening character. The madness that is the Narrator's thoughts was really well conveyed through tone, inflection and intonation. Her reading absolutely matched the character. Five stars for her performance. Sims' concept was a good one. I did find I had been expecting a different sort of book based on some of the publicity. This is not really a crime read. Instead, I found it to be a character study of a truly unhinged and mentally ill woman. We only hear from the Narrator - no one else. I was initially drawn into her narrative, but found myself drifting a bit as the book progressed. She goes over the same territory multiple times. But what is truth and what is her imaginings? I was waiting for 'something' to happen. It does, near the end, and it was good, but I found it somewhat anti-climatic after such a prolonged build up. I do want to say that Sims did a really good job of putting to paper the obsessive thinking processes of the Narrator. A decidedly different listen for me.
This book is a great read, though more on the depressing side. I enjoy reading the IVF process. I like the realistic feelings of a woman wanting to have a baby but couldn’t. It’s interesting to follow a scorned woman feeling like she has nothing to live for and unworthy of love and looking at someone else, an actress neighbor who seems to have the world in her hand. The realistic jealousy makes this book a page turner even though readers can foresee that nothing positive will come to this unnamed woman when she begins to tell readers that she obsesses over the perfection of her neighbor and continue to live in negativity, constantly viewing herself as less than. This book is told in the first person point of view following an unnamed woman as she observes an actress and her husband with three children at a distance through their window. She lives alone with her ex-husband’s cat. Further along into the story, readers will learn that this unnamed woman is angry because she wants to have a baby but couldn’t. She underwent many IVF treatments but still couldn’t get pregnant and her marriage ended in the result of that. She becomes angry and obsessive at other women who are able to easily have children, especially the actress neighbor, who seems perfect in every way. In her depression, she often fantasize herself living a better life, more similar to the actress. She imitates the actress from her movie roles when she goes to teach her poetry class to increase her self confidence level. Looker is well written. It depicts a scorned woman perfectly. The reasons for this unnamed woman to feel unhappy and unloved are right on point. It shows how far an unhappy person will go and unexplainable reasons for her actions. She continuously making bad decisions because she has nothing good going for her and the constant pressure from her ex and judgement from nosy neighbor just doesn’t help at all. The ending, I understand why she did it. She doesn’t want to lose it when she finally grow fond of something. So she did that as a way to win, as a way to have control over something than not having control of everything else that fail in other areas of her life. The other ending, I was expecting something spectacular with the actress she obsesses over, but it didn’t happen. Though this book doesn’t give a positive image of a person, it reminds readers that comparing ourselves to someone perfect is too high of an expectation. That’s why there are groups of people with common grounds to get together and support each other. This unnamed woman should have done that instead of surrounding herself with people who have everything she doesn’t. ***Disclaimer: Many thanks to Scribner for the opportunity to read and review. Please be assured that my opinions are honest. xoxo, Jasmine at www.howusefulitis.wordpress.com for more details
A woman is falling apart. Her husband has left her ... and left his cat with her. That's all she has because she has no children. After years of needles and tests and the loss of lots of money, she finally gave up. She teaches part-time at a college. But she is one extremely unhappy woman who is walking on the edge. From her view in her house she can see into the neighbor's kitchen at night. Living there is an actress, her screenwriter husband, and their three kids. They are living the life she should have had. She begins stalking ... although that's not what she would call it. She stares at their house ... she starts to dress like the actress, act like the actress. Imagines what it would be like to be her. She fantasizes about the actress' husband. She rubs elbow with the actress during their block party. But soon those happy 'wants' turn deadly. When envy and jealousy turn dangerous ... anything can happen. She is quickly spiraling out of control. Her husband wants his cat back and what she does is pure evil. She has a flirtation with one of her students that turns really wrong. So where is this all headed? The book is told only by this anonymous woman. She ruminates her early life with her husband from her viewpoint only. The reader gets a peek into her mind, what she thought, what she felt. And the reader also watches as she stalks, her mind already turning to darker things. Although the author has written other books (poetry), this is her first novel. It's powerful in its emotions. Many thanks to the author / Scribner Books / Edelweiss for the advanced digital copy of this psychological thriller. Opinions expressed here are unbiased and entirely my own.
I am glad this book was short, it was very hard to get into. The story and writing are ok and the plot was different than any other I'd read, but that was about the only thing that kept me reading. Talk about unlikeable characters, I didn't care for any of these self-centered people and therefore couldn't really be interested in any of them and the ending felt a little flat. I wish the author the best of luck with this book but it just wasn't my cup of tea.
You really need to enjoy a disturbing plot to enjoy this book. I enjoyed this book. Sigh... The unnamed narrator is a newly separated woman, living a "lonesome and loathsome" life (damn, I love that). She is lonely, crawling out of her skin practically, and she needs something to become the focus of her of her frenetic energy. So relatable for someone like me who went through a divorce and started over and felt like I was going to go CRAZY! Moving on... She finds her focus, practically a totem, in the form of the famous actress who lives on her street. Her obsession, in my layperson opinion, borders on Love Obsessional. She is convinced that she and this actress would be great friends if she only get herself noticed. She also thinks that she looks similar to the actress, even going as far to imagine people in the neighborhood confusing the two ladies. I'm not sure if this is the case since we don't get the best descriptions of either woman. The narrator is pretty sure that they wear the same lipstick (which explains the cool cover for this book), and I love that she specifically names L'Oreal #762 Divine Wine. It's a pretty shade, but I digress. The narrator obsesses over other people in the book, and things, and animals, but I will leave that to the reader to discovery. Really, it's brilliant. I'll obsessively say it again: what works about this book is the obsession (who else thought she should have just worn the damn perfume as a fun little Easter egg for the reader?). It's beautifully written, perfectly described, shamelessly real. In fact, the narrator's obsessive tendencies almost complete lost me at one point in the book. No spoiler here, but I'll just say I was enraged. But, after I calmed myself down, I gave the author props for really GOING THERE. I can't be that disciplined in my writing, which is probably why I've never finished the many books I've started. She truly commits to this story. I have to give this book 4 stars in stead of 5, however, because I think the author could have done a little something more with this plot. A little more interaction between certain characters, or perhaps some more bizarre behaviors by this narrator. I wanted one more thing to really hit me in my sweet spot.