Rating: 3 stars
Esther Kohl has just graduated from Northwestern with a degree in theater and no clue of what to do with her life. Her parents had every hope that Esther would somehow find her way—even going so far as to turn her bedroom into a home theater—but, the only way Esther found was the one leading back home.
Despite being a college grad, returning home has caused a rift in Esther’s development. Instead of embracing an older, more mature persona, she reverts back to her former high school self in both mannerisms and habits—which includes hanging out with her friend Pickle and his slovenly friend Jack.
Despite never having had a boyfriend, Esther finds her self attracted to Jack’s pseudo bad-boy image, despite the fact that he’s dating the shrew-like Jocelyn—a relationship that is the very definition of dysfunction, but maintained with a steadfast loyalty to conviction.
After securing a babysitting job with the Browns, a couple in mid-marital implosion due to the recent death of their second child, Esther sees the effects of true loss; and, after a serious lapse of judgment with Jack, she realizes that perhaps there’s a reason for the old saying “You can’t go home again.”
With her new insight Esther may just find the answers she needs to move forward.
With well-structured, perfectly suited prose, Stein captures the stubborn resistance to the loss of innocence and the feeling of inept vulnerability. Although the story originally feels immature, and Esther comes off as immature and pathetic at times, it’s not long before the true, underlying premise beings to take shape. In short, you don’t have to be lost and undecided to relate to someone who is – we’ve all been there or at least cared about someone who has.
Leigh Stein’s debut successfully captures the purgatory between childhood and becoming an adult. What begins as childish regression ends as a bittersweet, nostalgic remembrance of a time when things were just a bit easier. A time before the stark realization that crossing the line into adulthood was a much bigger step than we ever anticipated.
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Melville House (January 3, 2012)