by Kate Christensen

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Josie is a Manhattan psychotherapist living a comfortable life with her husband and daughter. Raquel is a Los Angeles rock star with a platinum album and the attendant money and fame. When Josie realizes her marriage is over, and Raquel finds herself at the center of a scandal, these old friends take off for Mexico City where sweltering heat, new acquaintances, and tequila-fueled nights rapidly spiral out of control. In this vibrant novel, award-winning author Kate Christensen has crafted a bewitching tale of lust, loyalty, and the limits of friendship.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780385530385
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 06/16/2009
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 985,186
File size: 3 MB

About the Author

Kate Christensen is the author of the novels In the Drink, Jeremy Thrane, The Epicure's Lament, The Great Man, winner of the 2008 PEN/Faulker Award, and Trouble. She lives in Brooklyn.

Read an Excerpt


On a Thursday night in late December, I stood in my friend Indrani Dressler's living room, flirting with a man I had just met.
"Oh, come on," Mick, the Englishman I was talking to, was saying, "business acumen and a finger on the zeitgeist are not the same as innovation or originality. She's a clever parasite."
"I heard one of her songs the other day in a deli," I said. "It brought back that feeling of being young and wild and idiotic. You just can't take her too seriously."
"She's got a fake accent," Mick said, his mouth gleaming with mirth and wine, firm and half-sneering. His breath smelled like corn. "She irons her hair and she's had too much plastic surgery and she's pasty. She looks like an emaciated Wife of Bath."
"She's got the body of a thirteen-year-old gymnast and she's almost fifty," I said.
"She's a maggot," he said. He was not much taller than I, but broad in the shoulders and solid. His head was large, his face half ugly, half handsome, more French-looking than English, nose too big, eyes narrow, chin jutting forward. We were talking as if the words themselves didn't matter. I had forgotten this feeling.
"A maggot," I repeated, laughing, egging him on.
"Tunneling her way through personas till they're totally rotten and riddled with holes, then moving on to the next one. She went from soft white larva to shriveled maggot in twenty-odd years."
"Obviously," I said with mild triumph, "you're obsessed with her."
"I'm writing an opera about her," he told me in a way that made it impossible to tell whether he was kidding or serious. "Back before she made it. Back when she was young and soft and nasty. I'm calling it Madonna of Loisaida. Madonna when she was a newborn vampire, a baby whore."

I realized with a shock of surprise who he was. About a year ago, one of my clients, a pale, severely chic young concert violinist named Alison Fisher, had precipitously quit therapy after five years and moved to Canada to take care of her dying aunt. She had spent many sessions complaining eloquently and, I'd thought, with very good reason, about her boyfriend, Mick Logan; he was British, he wrote avant-garde operas that told melodramatic fictional stories about famous people, and he made Alison feel clumsy and plain and dull with his devastatingly sharp but subtle put-downs. With much guidance and feedback on my part, she had finally managed to get rid of him. According to what Alison had told me, he was in his mid-thirties, about ten years younger than I was; he was very bad news. She'd said once that breaking up with Mick felt like being let out of jail. And now, here he was at a Christmas party, bantering with me, leading me into a sexually charged, ultimately nonsensical argument that seemed to be rapidly leading somewhere I knew I couldn't go, somewhere I hadn't even thought of going in a very, very long time.

Just then, I caught sight of a reflection of a woman in the tilted gilt-edged mirror across the room. She was dressed similarly to me, so I tilted my head to get a better look at her. As I did so, the woman tilted her head to match the movement of mine. I raised my wineglass; she raised hers along with me.

It was then, in that instant, that I knew that my marriage was over.
My heart stopped beating. I almost heard it squeak as it constricted with fear, and then it resumed its steady rhythm and life went on, as it usually does.

"She's not a villainess, though; she's not interesting enough," Mick was saying. "That's the challenge of this opera. She's all too human, just quite vile really."
"Vile," I repeated, laughing, mouth open, neck bared, my rib cage pulsing with my hard-beating heart. My laughter had a freaky sound in it, like the yelp of a wild dog. I had to move out, I thought with horror. Or Anthony did. No, I did. Our apartment was his when I married him. And I had to take Wendy with me. Where, though? Where would we go? She'd hate me even more than she did already. Of course, she'd blame me, because it was all going to be my fault. "Then why would you write an opera about her?"
"Because," he said, "like a maggot, she's got under my skin and it's the only way to get her out. That revoltingly nasal little voice. Those dead-fish eyes. Those ropy muscles . . ."

I felt the vastly gigantic, frightening wheels that drive the world begin to turn. Lawyers, custody, settlement, alimony. I'd always been someone who made decisions with agonizing thoroughness and caution; to have such a momentous realization thrust upon me with no control whatsoever felt the way being in an earthquake or avalanche might have felt.

Anthony had stayed home that night, ostensibly because he had a lot of research to do for his new book, but in truth, he was relieved not to have to go out. He hated parties in general and didn't much like Indrani; he thought she was boring, which she wasn't, but you couldn't argue with him when he got an idea about someone. Right then, he was probably sitting in his armchair, happily engrossed in some book about post-Communist Eastern Europe, his current preoccupation, sipping at a water glass filled with neat whiskey, reading glasses on the end of his nose, frowning, gently scratching and rubbing his sternum under his shirt in that abstracted way he had. Anthony was a political scientist and New School professor. When I first met him, he had been a dynamic, passionate man, but over the past years, as he got closer to death and the world continued to go down the tubes, his old fired-up passion had been gradually replaced by bitterness, fatalism, and weariness. I had watched it happen, powerless to stop it.

This attitude of defeated resignation now extended from his work to everything in his life, including our marriage. He was becoming, somehow, an old man. I was apparently still a youngish woman; I looked at my reflection again to make sure I hadn't been mistaken about this, and there I still was, radiant, my hair upswept, my eyes wide and sparkling. If that reflection had belonged to a stranger, I would have been intimidated by her. I had had no idea.

"You wrote an opera about Nico," I said giddily to Mick, just to say something; I had just realized that he seemed to be awaiting a reply from me.
He looked surprised. "How did you know that?"
"Oh," I said, realizing what I'd just revealed. "God. Well."
He looked at me, waiting.
"I just realized who you are," I said. I had never before made a slip like this in eighteen years of being a therapist. "I know a friend of yours."
"Which friend?"
"Alison," he said, as if he were hoping it weren't that Alison.
"Alison Fisher."
He shook his head. "How the hell do you know her?"
"Oh," I said, waving a casual hand sideways. "You know, New York."
"Right," he said.
"I haven't seen her in ages," I added by way of reassurance.
"She dumped me cold. Never happened to me before or since. Little witch." He looked briefly into his empty glass, then took my half-full glass from me, grazing his knuckles against mine so all the little hairs on his crackled electrically against all the little hairs on mine. He drank from my glass, his eyes audaciously on mine over the rim. "Enough about Alison. What do you do, Josephine? Doesn't everyone here ask that question before the topic turns to real estate?"
"Oh, I'm a painter," I lied. I had always wanted to be a painter, and I couldn't tell the truth after that slip about Alison; he might have put together that I was the very therapist involved in that little witch's cold dumping of him and surmised that I therefore knew certain things about him, certain highly unflattering things. And that would have been awkward, and the last thing I wanted in this conversation was awkwardness. What I did want, I wasn't yet sure.
Mick handed my glass back to me. My body curved to match the curve of his, as if we were two commas separated by nothing but air. "What sort of painting?"
"Abstract," I said.
"Abstract," he said.
"Abstract," I replied. Repeating each other's words was like sex, I was remembering. My reflection, I noticed, was leaning alluringly into him. I hadn't realized how willowy I was, how darkly elegant. I had to leave Anthony: I owed it to this woman in the mirror.
"Painting is sexy," said Mick. "Writing operas, on the other hand, is lonely and pointless. Who gives a fuck? Aria, schmaria."
"Painting is sexy," I repeated. "You stand in your studio half-naked, smearing paint all over the canvas until you explode from the sheer pleasure of it."
He laughed; there was a glint, a predatory edge, in his laughter, and I noticed that he was standing a little closer to me now. "Alison Fisher," he said malevolently, looking at me as if I were now inextricably associated with her, but he was willing to overlook it. I had a sudden urge to suck his cock.
"I need some more wine," I said. "You rudely guzzled my last glass."
"Wait here," he said, and plucked the glass from my hand. I watched him walk over to the dining room table, where all the bottles were. He was wearing a black turtleneck sweater and well-fitting brown jeans and black Doc Martens. He had a good ass. I glanced over at the mirror and again beheld my reflection. My new best friend, I thought with tipsy seasonal sentimentality.

"Josie," said Indrani, standing at my elbow. Her cheeks were flushed. Her blond hair shone. She wore red velvet. I had known her since college, and to me, she still looked exactly the same as the day I'd met her. She smelled of expensive, slightly astringent perfume. "Hi! Where's Anthony?"
"Hi," I said, kissing her. "He's swamped with work. He's so sorry to miss it. You look so beautiful!"
She looked at me. "You do, too," she said. "I mean it."
"Thanks," I said. "I've been talking to your friend Mick. He's a big flirt, isn't he?"
"Is he? I hardly know him; he's a friend of Ravi's." This was her much younger brother. Her parents had had a penchant for exotic names; the two older brothers were Giacomo and Federico. Ravi was a handsome, cheeky, disreputable Lothario type who was at that moment getting sloshed on vodka in the kitchen with Indrani's teaching assistant. "Seriously, you look really good, not that you don't always look good," said Indrani. "What's going on?"
"I'm flirting," I said recklessly. "I haven't flirted in about ten years."
"Are you going to fuck him?" she whispered. She was tipsy, obviously, and kidding; Indrani tended to be idealistic and even moralistic about marriage, probably because she was single.
"No." I laughed, but I did not say it emphatically.
Mick handed me a full glass of wine, which I took without looking at him.
"Hello, Indrani," he said. "Your apartment is lovely."
"Well, thanks. I was lucky; I bought at the right time." Indrani had a soft, round, open face and doelike brown eyes. Her shoulder-length hair was golden and shiny and straight, like a little kid's; her tall body was charmingly ungainly, slightly plump, and breasty. Although she was now a middle-aged professor at an Ivy League school, she had never lost the disarmingly naive ingenue quality that had instantly endeared her to me and won my trust when I was a shy eighteen-year-old in a strange new place.

She was not Indian; she was English and Danish. She had been born in Costa Rica to hippie parents who had later moved to the Bay Area, where she had grown up. Unfortunately for Indrani, given this upbringing, she was by nature deeply reserved and emotionally conservative. As a kid, she had chafed with embarrassment and discomfort at all the naked tripping adults at happenings, the peach-and-lentil burger suppers, the patchouli-scented, jerry-rigged VW vans, the peace marches, having to wear used clothes from the People's Park free box. Her mother was the only daughter of a very rich man, but Indrani hadn't fully realized this until she was given access to her trust fund at the age of twenty-one.

"Hey, Josie," she said, turning her lambent gaze on me, "I've been meaning to ask, have you heard anything from Raquel lately? What's going on with her new boyfriend? She wouldn't even tell me his name, but she said he's exactly half her age."
"So it's Josie, then, not Josephine," said Mick. "Suits you, actually."
I was so turned on by the sound of his voice in my ear, I could have raped him right there. I was feeling loose and wild and punchy. I had spent the past ten years, it seemed to me now, with my muscles clenched, eyes narrowed, shut up in a dark, too-small, sterile room, trying desperately but vainly to make it feel homey and capacious. The door out of my cage, my cell, had been right there all along and I had just flung it open; now that I could see outside to light, color, life, freedom, I felt that there was no closing it, ever again.

"Yeah," I said, almost giggling like a kid. "I haven't talked to her for a couple of weeks, but she said the thing with the new boyfriend is very hush-hush for some reason, and she wouldn't tell me who he was, either. And she's got a new album in the works. It's her big comeback. Apparently, she's put together an amazing band, and they've been in the studio all fall." Raquel had also told me that she was getting a little sick of Indrani's earnest, self-involved E-mails, but I didn't mention that bit of news.
"Raquel Dominguez?" Mick asked.
"The very same," I said.
He looked impressed, the starfucker. "How do you know her?" he asked.
"College," I said.
"We were all three best friends," Indrani added warmly.
I thought of what Raquel had just said to me about her and felt guilty and complicit, even though I was innocent.

In the fall of 1980, more than a quarter of a century ago, Indrani and Raquel and I had been newly arrived freshmen with consecutive alphabetical last names at a small liberal-arts school tucked away in a leafy suburban corner of a small northwestern city. Sensing a shared ironic yet romantic outlook, we had immediately formed a solid, seemingly permanent triumvirate. The three of us had rented a ramshackle old house together off campus. We majored unanimously in English, wore one another's thrift-store clothes, cooked big meaty dinners, and threw parties at which we all took mushrooms or MDA and played the Talking Heads, the Specials, Elvis Costello, Al Green. We passed boyfriends around amicably and casually-at least two and sometimes all three of us had slept (but never at the same time) with Joe the chem major, Stavros the history major, Dave the anthro major, Jonathan the anthro major, and Jason the anthro major (we'd had a thing for anthropologists, for reasons we could never quite fathom). We never slept with one another. Straight girls sleeping together just for youthful sport was, we all tacitly agreed, a clichŽ, and of course we called ourselves girls, not women-feminist didacticism, along with earnest vegetarianism, was emphatically not our aesthetic, which set us somewhat apart from the majority of the student body, which suited us fine.

Reading Group Guide

The questions, discussion topics, and reading list that follow are intended to enhance your reading group's discussion of Trouble, Kate Christensen's bewitching tale of lust, loyalty, and the limits of friendship.

1. Do you empathize or disagree with Josie's decision to leave Anthony and her reasons for doing so? Did you find Josie to be a sympathetic character at the beginning of the novel? In the end? Why or why not?

2. In Chapter Two, we see Josie in four psychotherapy sessions with her clients. Why do you think the author included these scenes in the novel? Do Josie's training and experience as a therapist enable her to have increased insight into the people around her?

3. Mexico City serves as a needed escape valve for both Josie and Raquel. Why do you think the author chose this city for the setting of the converging and diverging paths of these two friends? What role does Mexico itself play in the unfolding story?

4. There are several instances and places during the novel in which a ritualized encounter takes place, among them the paparazzi descending on Raquel, a bullfight, and references to the human-sacrifice rituals of the Aztecs. Are there other instances of such encounters? What do you think the author is suggesting about the apparent ongoing human need for them?

5. On page 307, going home from Raquel's mother's house in a taxi with Wendy, Josie reflects about the kind of friend she has been to Raquel: “Maybe she and I had failed each other by allowing each other the freedom to be ourselves, and maybe that was the inevitable consequence of true friendship.” What do you think she means by this? Do you agree?

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Trouble 2.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 14 reviews.
LaurieA More than 1 year ago
I loved every part of this book. It was rich on so many levels. I felt like the characters could have been my friends. And the character development really advanced the plot well, instead of veering away from it. Every chapter divulged a pleasant surprise, a new treasure for the reader. This is the first Kate Christensen book, and I will definitely read more.
Kasia_S More than 1 year ago
I must admit that I had preconceived notions about this book when I glanced at the reviews and ranking, but Kate Christensen is one of my favorite authors and deep down I knew that this was a special book no matter what anyone else thought of it. Trouble is different than her other works, for a change the main character is a woman, so the writing felt much softer, it was properly rounded and followed female insecurities and cravings , making this feel like a completely different work than one would expect from the queen of bringing eccentric men to life in her previous novels. I love that about Kate's book, you never know what to expect, other than a sheer feeling of joy when I hold each of the new books for the very first time. On top of the fact than it's an intense and full bodied tale, the sticky and sweet, sweaty at times atmosphere of Mexico made me hold my breath a few times. The story seems simple from the birds point of view, but when dissected more closely it's about two very different women and their way to find a happy place that either makes them feel alive or relieves them from their pain. The books is not one dimensional, it deals with the search of fulfilling some deeply buried lust and also with female friendships which can be as bizarre, draining and difficult as a marriage or a family situation. There is an art theme running though the novel and the usual good eating of spicy new foods and drinks, which give the novel life and authenticity, the luxurious charm of Kate's hidden little gems shines through in vivid and charismatic way as she sneaks in brilliant descriptions that make the reader go back and re-read many of the great lines. Josie who's a forty something NYC therapist decides to do what's right after fifteen years of marriage and focuses on her own selfish needs, her inner woman finally unleashed is faced with a two week vacation and what better way to escape the cold Christmas saturated streets than to a lush and tropical Mexico where Raquel, one of her best friends awaits. Free of men, kids and work worries, the two very different women let go and submerge themselves into a different world, one that holds release, pleasure but also darkness. I didn't feel the need to completely relate to Josie, Raquel or the third of the close knit group, Indrani, in order to like the book, in fact the way their lives seem to fall apart in front of my eyes was more like watching a play that was both tragic and sensual. This might not be for everyone, but I enjoyed it. The heavy drinking gave the book such opulence, such a high pedestal for the women to fall from that it would make most of us think twice about overindulgence which only seemed to lead to more depression or unusual behavior from someone who appears grounded, making Josie very human and vulnerable, bit tough and little selfish but with child like curiosity inside that added warmth to the all ready steamy novel. I was lost in this book for two days and after finishing it I still feel tangled in its aura, now I must patiently wait for the next book, which from what I read online is in the works. - Kasia S.
writergal85 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Fantastic book that I could not put down about three independent women who have been friends since college: Indrani is a single professor and a perfectionist, Josie is a married Manhattan psychotherapist with an adopted tween, who has just decided to separate from her husband, and Raquel lives in Los Angeles and is a famous rock star who hasn't put out a hit album in years. Indrani, who has long struggled with her own relationships with men, disapproves of Raquel¿s affair as well as Josie¿s decision to just ¿let¿ her marriage go without trying to work things out. They are now all in their mid-forties.After Raquel is in the tabloids for being with an actor in his twenties (who has a pregnant girlfriend), she escapes to Mexico City and begs Josie to join her. She¿s upset and needs her old friend down there for support. Josie sees it as a great opportunity for an escape from New York and to catch up with her close friend. The two women have a wonderful time exploring the city, drinking and eating, and catching up. But Raquel's depression and addiction return and the vacation takes a traumatic turn. Trouble is about strong, unconditional love and female friendships. It is also about lifelong dreams and career goals and what makes us happy. Christensen [The Great Man] is a brilliant writer who creates believable, empathetic characters to whom you can instantly relate and bond with throughout her novels. When Trouble ends, you will still think about the characters.
dianaleez on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
`Trouble,' the fifth novel by PEN/Faulkner Award winner Kate Christensen is the story of middle-age-meltdown, the comforts and limits of friendship, and the conflict between connections and freedom. The protagonist, Josie, is a middle-aged Manhattan psychologist with a seemingly enviable life - a satisfying career, successful spouse, and beautiful/smart daughter. Then one night she finds herself flirting with a stranger and decides that her life is empty. She leaves her husband and daughter and sets about `fulfilling her own needs,' `finding herself,' and/or `getting in touch with her inner self.' The irony that she's a psychologist and has so little self-knowledge is, of course, central to the novel. As a coming-of-age story, Christensen's novel is all too predictable. Josie goes to Mexico, where she drinks too much, eats exotic foods, mingles with the natives, and has mind blowing sex. She also reconnects with a close friend who's going through a crisis. The two women attempt to comfort each other, but their inability to understand themselves is mirrored in their failure to connect. `Trouble' is an interesting and thought provoking, if dark, novel, but I did not find it enjoyable reading. I found the characters' angst to be a bit self-indulgent and their actions self-serving. Nevertheless, it's an interesting mix.
ForeignCircus on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I'm confess, for the first few pages, I didn't know if I would be able to sink into this novel, but I persevered and was amply rewarded for my efforts. This forthright look at three professionally sucessful middle age women re-assessing their life choices made for a wonderful and fairly quick read once I was fully engaged. Though I didn't much like Josie in the opening pages of the book, her character and motivations became more understandable as the story unfolded and I found myself warming to her. As for lost soul Rachel, I found her much more sympathetic than I had imagined I would, and truly enjoyed her role in the Mexico City portion of the story. All in all, a well-written and well-imagined look at the nature of relationships between women, and the consequences of the choices we make as we progress through life. 4.5 stars.
bobbieharv on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Good to read fiction after so many memoirs, but the first half of this book was so much better than, and so different from, the second half it became very disappointing. She's a therapist who meets a guy at a party and decides she has to leave her husband. Then she goes to Mexico with her rock-star friend and has a bizarre affair and discovers the friend is a drug addict. Very unbelievable. If only she'd just kept the first half going, and described her marital problems by way of her patients, instead of abandoning the whole therapy theme.
ccayne on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book was a huge disappointment. I'm a fan of Christensen and have read her previous books. This book was horrible - poorly written, chick lit with a predictable plot line and stock characters.
CityLove on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book was ok. I predicted the entire book which is no fun. I like to be surprised. Also, the back of the book implied the novel was about sexual explortation and awakening and that was about 10 pages of the whole book. The beginning dragged too.
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BeachReaderMom23 More than 1 year ago
Don't listen to any negative reviews! This is Kates BEST novel so far! I have read all her books, and the characters seemed to jump off the pages in this book. There is a special bond with all three main female characters, and the new found friendships with those they meet in Mexico. Though the language is a little graphic for my taste, the storyline, her characters discriptions and their heartfelt everyday lives and troubles is what makes this book a GREAT read! Its heartwarming the way the friends pull together. Even when they are fighting, they are still supportive of one another. Josie's distant or troubling relationship with her daughter, and the way they seem to work thru that and seem closer than ever in the end. Its a story how two best friends are there for each other when they need each other the most! How can that be a bad book? Its a very touching and moving story! We should all be so lucky to have friends like that, that would support us in this way. Rachel's life is tragic and she needs Josie's support and groundedness to get thru the scrunity of being in the publics eye... The ending left me wishing for more!!!...and thinking what is in store for the characters. I just wanted more to read!!! Keep up the great novels kate!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
elleb17 More than 1 year ago
I have loved all of Kate Christensen's books. Trouble starts and seems to be going to an interesting place but does not deliver. The characters are never developed the relationships are not interesting with overemphasis on the visual. very disappointing.