Writers & Lovers, the latest novel by Lily King, centers on 31-year-old Casey Peabody, a weepy, anxious wanna-be novelist reeling from her mother’s sudden death.
The setting is Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1997. Casey lives in a converted shed attached to a garage. She walks her landlord’s dog each morning—she doesn’t even know the dog’s name—and rides her banana bike to and from her job waiting tables in Harvard Square. Her mail consists of wedding invitations and final notices from debt collectors. She’s a woman without a plan.
Except for one thing: She writes. She keeps writing, and keeps hoping, even though nearly all her friends tell her it’s past time to give up her dream. When she drops her stack of manuscripts at a post office to ship them to prospective agents, the postal clerk remarks, “Let’s hope your next six years are a little more exciting, sweetie pie.”
The novel chronicles Casey’s dating life with somberness and humor. About one prospective date, a man with serious writer’s block, Casey tells herself: “I can’t go out with a guy who’s written eleven and a half pages in three years. That kind of thing is contagious.” When she finds herself falling for two very different men—an older, established novelist with two young sons and a younger nomad with a rusted-out car—the story explores the joy, despair, hilarity and confusion that come with both writing and love.
Writers & Lovers isn’t deep literary fiction. It reminded me somewhat of Stephanie Danler’s Sweetbitter—with a bit less alcohol and random sex. But it’s a touching coming-of-age story of how day-to-day experiences influence the creative process, and how writing reflects life.