The story of Helen/Heloise Lewis, a rather secret person who leads a very complicated life. Helen is a young woman with an abusive father who leaves home with a young man who is no better. Later in life we find Heloise, nee Helen, running a successful "escort service." She has, along the way, made some questionable decisions and involved herself with some very dangerous people. All of this is beginning to come together as we enter this captivating novel. I read this in a weekend, it was just great.
This novel was written before The Subprimes.
This is the rare book that I didn't finish. I got maybe 50 pages in, and just lost interest. Maybe it develops into something and I may have missed that, but so far I'm reading the problems of people wealthier than I have ever been even near to. Perhaps this is simple envy, but they just don't seem like actual problems to me.
It's dystopian near-future fiction. America has become almost completely de-regulated, practically everything privatized. There's an enormous population of unemployed homeless, the "Subprimes" of the title, who wander the country, working as temporary labor--especially at fracking sites--and squatting in foreclosed, uninhabited housing developments. The environment has deteriorated quite a bit from the way it is now: summer has become a long, hellish season with temperatures routinely climbing into the 130s. A major character is a kind of Bernie Madoff who may be rehabilitated by a televangelist who characterizes him as a victim of progressives who wish to stymie the "job-creators." One of the skillful things that Greenfeld has done is to make this world very, very close to the one we are in. Many current cultural references are made: it's not that far in the future.
Unfortunately, I didn't much like the ending. It seemed contrived, a sort of deus ex machina thing that says, "I didn't know what to do with this plot so I did this." To me, anyway. The book was still worth reading for its dire predictions and the caution that it should raise.
Haven't read anything by Anne Tyler in years. I'm looking forward to this.
And it was not a disappointment. The story of the Whitshank family, with special focus on Abby Whitshank and her son Daniel--though we feel very well acquainted with all other family members by the book's end, both the current and past members--is, in a way, nothing special, and at the same time it is devastatingly extraordinary, particular, and fascinating.