All Grown Up by Jessi Attenberg
This novel reads like a bunch of linked short stories with the same narrator, Andrea Bern, a single graphic designer living in New York. Her voice is cynical and hip, but also vulnerable and searching. I was hooked by the first story, the only one told in second person, a claustrophobic meditation on artistic frustration and thwarted ambition. One organizing principle of the book seems to be that each chapter/story is about a different relationship or person in the protagonist’s life. Dysfunctional and doomed relationships, frustrated artistic ambitions, a family heartbroken by the impending death of her young niece. I didn’t relate much to the terrible romantic relationships, though they were fascinating to read about. I wish Attenberg had explored Andrea’s failure as an artist more. The thought of her terminally ill niece hangs ominously over it all, kept away because of her own fear of approaching this deep sadness. The ending is open to interpretation in a way that’s a little frustrating, but also hopeful and depressing at the same time. It’s a short, very engrossing and perceptive novel that I haven’t been able to stop thinking about.