Friday, 30 March 2012

72/111 - The Fallback Plan by Leigh Stein

I was looking on Amazon earlier to see what other people had thought of this novel, and holy shit there are some morons reviewing this. This is a book I bought very recently for two main reasons - firstly, it was published by Melville House, who I interned for a couple of years ago, and secondly, it's about a girl who graduates from University and then has to move back in with her parents living a very aimless life and trying to find her way, so I thought it was sort of appropriate.

I quite liked this, even though at first I thought it was going to be bleak and unenjoyable. It was a strange sort of story - Esther, the main character has returned back to her parents' home after graduating and gets a job as a babysitter for a couple who lost one of their children the previous year. At first she gets on extremely well with Amy, the mother, and falls in love with May, her adorable daughter. Slowly, Esther and the husband, Nate, start a weird sort of affair where they get high and kiss in Esther's car. The marriage seems to be going nowhere since the death of their child, however Nate is kind of a coward and doesn't know how to end it. Esther is also kind of a coward in some ways, but they are understandable ways as I also feel like kind of a coward sometimes.

I'm also glad that it wasn't too sentimental. There's lots of opportunities for Esther to have some sort of meaningful epiphany, such as when she finds out that she's being used for sex by one of her friends, or when she realises that Nate is also using her. In a way, I would have liked her to have an epiphany, or at least a moment where she declares that she won't be treated this way any longer, or something. But she doesn't, and that made it very realistic to me. There are no dramatic declarations and she doesn't really change much, and I think that's probably what people are like in general. I mean, I've changed a lot in the last ten years, but by the time you reach your mid-twenties, I think you've probably changed as much as you're ever going to.

The bits of the novel I didn't like were the parts where Esther is imagining herself in a story about a little lost Panda, or something. I skipped those bits because they seemed clumsy and forced to me. Could have done without them I think. And although I found Esther realistic, I also found her frustratingly passive - once she returns from University, she sort of wallows for a bit, hoping for a serious illness so that she can claim benefits. She reads emails from her friends about all the things they're doing and allows herself to basically be used by Nate and that other guy. The only time Esther is really all that interesting, or funny is when she's with May.

I can kind of relate to the frustration of the strange hell of living back at home once you've graduated and are looking for work, but at least I haven't been passive about it. I don't think so anyway. I have worked myself to the point of illness trying to find work, while all my friends around me are Real People with proper jobs and even buying their own houses. I'm halfway there now, got the job and now I need to see if I can get the money together to move out.

Anyway, that's a little off-topic. I enjoyed this book, but if I hadn't been in the situation I'm in now/have been last year, I think I would have found it a little dull. The parts that really spoke to me were related to Esther trying to find her place in the world.

Next: Not sure, still trying to get round to reading the last Thursday Next book, but I keep putting it off for some reason.

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