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Book Review

Book Review: 'The Answers'

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Willy Somma
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Whiting Award winner Catherine Lacey’s second novel, The Answers, is ambitious. Her needy protagonist is one we could easily dismiss; she has chronic pain, lives way beyond her meager means, and is emotionally drained. So, why are we engaged with the single twenty-something travel agent assistant? The answer is that Catherine Lacey is an amazing stylist, infusing humor and empathy into a beguiling intellectual narrative.

Having escaped a repressive and isolated evangelist upbringing, Mary travels the world before landing in New York. With no diagnosis or relief from a medical doctor, she tries all kinds of methods in search of a treatment to alleviate her chronic pain. She finally meets Ed, whose novel treatment both helps and is unaffordable to the underpaid, underemployed young woman.

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Desperate, Mary answers an ad promising lots of money. She is selected to be part of “The Boyfriend Project” being conducted for a vapid superstar named Kurt.

The pseudo-scientific project follows five women who are hired to fill various needs for their employer: There is an anger girlfriend, an intellectual girlfriend, a maternal girlfriend, an intimacy girlfriend, and Mary is hired as the emotional girlfriend. She follows strict guidelines and scripts to elicit emotional feelings from Kurt.

Despite a complicated and intellectual conceit, Lacey's second novel doesn’t deliver answers, but it does take the reader on a heartfelt and amusing journey into how we get lost and find ourselves, the compartmentalization of our lives, and where we find family.

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The Answers by Catherine Lacy (Farrar, Straus & Giroux | June 6, 2017)