cover image The Worst Kind of Want

The Worst Kind of Want

Liska Jacobs. MCD, $26 (224p) ISBN 978-0-374-27266-1

Jacobs’s intoxicating second novel (after 2017’s Catalina) is a love letter to Italy and an evocative study of grief and desire. Forty-three-year-old Priscilla “Cilla” Messing jumps at the chance to trade Los Angeles for Rome, leaving the bedside of her demanding mother, who is rehabilitating after a fall. Cilla’s 15-year-old niece, Hannah, who lives in Rome, is still reeling after the death of her mother, Emily, Cilla’s sister, a year earlier, and is exhibiting concerning behavior. Hannah’s father, Paul, hopes that Cilla will have a calming effect. In Rome, Cilla soon falls into a routine of after-school walking tours with Hannah and 17-year-old Donato, the son of Paul’s writing partner and the object of Hannah’s affection. Donato is an eager tour guide and his innocent flirtation awakens something dangerous in Cilla. Eventually, Cilla and Donato are stealing moments alone, and their liaisons begin to consume Cilla, leading to devastating consequences. Jacobs threads a vein of low menace throughout the dreamlike beauty of Rome, signaling the inevitable result of Cilla and Donato’s doomed affair. As their dalliance intensifies, Cilla reflects on her aging body, her complex relationship with Emily, her death, and a life lived at the expense of her own needs. Jacobs’s haunting portrait of one woman’s transformative and, ultimately, tragic summer will linger with readers. [em](Nov.) [/em]