Melissa McConnell, Author . Harcourt $14 (307p) ISBN 978-0-15-603058-8

Politics get very personal in McConnell's absorbing debut. Catherine has given up her near-idyllic existence in Manhattan to accompany her fiancé, Harry, to D.C., where he works in the West Wing as a "Special Advisor" to the president, while she holes up in the adjacent Old Executive Office Building as a PR factotum to the Veep. What does a special adviser do? In Harry's case, he works really long hours—and then one day he disappears. In Harry's absence, Catherine longingly recalls the progress of their relationship, struggles to do her job, sifts through clues as to why he left and tries to cobble together a future. McConnell explores other losses in Catherine's life simultaneously: that of her military pilot father, a gay friend dying of leukemia, and the abrupt end of a burgeoning affair with her widower boss. Precise, poetic images distinguish the prose ("Everything is set at odd angles from this vantage point," Catherine observes from the Hotel Washington terrace, "it is a crazy postcard shot, as if the nation's capital were caught unguarded in its sleep, as if unwatched the teapot buildings had begun to dance and change places") and a quiet but insistent tension keeps the pages turning. Agent, Fredrica Friedman . (May)

Reviewed on: 03/14/2005
Release date: 05/01/2005
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