Maud Casey, Author THE SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME M $24 (272p) ISBN 978-0-688-17695-2

Striving for humor and poignancy, but never quite achieving either, this first novel finds 33-year-old Isabelle living at home with her mother in the dull Midwestern suburb of her youth. The by-now familiar setup of sexy single mom and cynical product-of-the-'70s offspring presents ample opportunity for Casey to lampoon the trappings of contemporary existence—among them dating services, office jobs and highway psychics—and to bend her lead character's casual observations into meditations on life so far. After a failed attempt to find a more glamorous existence in San Francisco, Isabelle retreats to Standardsville, Ill., a land of strip malls and cul-de-sacs, and signs on with a rather dubious temp agency. Her overzealous temp agent and peeping-tom neighbor join the cast of quirky characters sketched in broad strokes. Several coincidental encounters and sudden shifts in plot prevent the book from taking itself too seriously, but also keep it from being believable as a portrait of American suburbia. Rarely does Casey's satire dig much deeper than assigning silly names to places of business (Temporama, Let's Pet, En Queso Emergency, etc.), and when the author attempts to build emotional tension, she relies on the inherent pathos of suicide and failed dreams rather than on any real feeling for her characters. With no apparent connection to the 1933 H.G. Wells novel of the same name, and no new insights into contemporary loserdom, this novel is too heavily laden with its own absurdities to say much about those outside its confines; its greatest appeal lies in Isabelle's earnest search for meaning. Agent, Alice Tasman, Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency. 4-city author tour. (Apr. 3)

Reviewed on: 02/26/2001
Release date: 04/01/2001
Show other formats
Paperback - 272 pages - 978-0-06-008441-7
Peanut Press/Palm Reader - 272 pages - 978-0-06-145583-4
Open Ebook - 272 pages - 978-0-06-145581-0
Ebook - 272 pages - 978-0-06-145586-5
Ebook - 272 pages - 978-0-06-187317-1
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