Stray City

Chelsey Johnson. Custom House, $25.99 (432p) ISBN 978-0-06-266668-0
Johnson’s smart and delightful debut is narrated by Andrea, a college student and self-described member of the Lesbian Mafia. The novel is set mostly in late-’90s Portland, but also flashes back to Andrea’s repressive adolescence in Nebraska and forward a decade for its final section. Fresh from a painful breakup, Andrea receives a second emotional blow at the club where she goes to commiserate with her friends: she spots her ex, Flynn, in intimate conversation with her closest confidant, Vivian. This, and an abundance of alcohol, lead to a one-night dalliance with Flynn’s friend Ryan, a hairdresser and aspiring musician. Andrea’s fling with Ryan blossoms into a relationship, and she works to keep it secret and to understand her attraction to him, which unnerves her. When an unplanned pregnancy intervenes, must her life become conventional? A chief pleasure of the novel is its shagginess, reflected in Andrea’s “mostly hopeful,” unambitious, but inquisitive life. Johnson taps into a nostalgia for a reader’s youth and a simpler time, and the story keeps its vitality and humor throughout. Agent: PJ Mark, Janklow & Nesbit Associates. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 01/08/2018
Release date: 03/01/2018
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