cover image The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P.

The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P.

Adelle Waldman. Holt, $25 (224p) ISBN 978-0-8050-9745-0

Brooklynite Nathaniel Piven, “a product of a postfeminist, 1980s childhood,” is the modern male—inheritor of a dating world where the enduring gender imbalance gives him the upper hand. But when it comes to relationships, he’s achingly aware of the hidden traps and unsought responsibility of this power. Nate hates feeling guilty over the many women he hurts (female tears in this novel flow with a tenacious persistence, to Nate’s irritation). His well-intentioned missteps with reporter Juliet and editorial assistant Elisa earn him tireless tsk-tsk reprimands and a rep for being “the kind of guy women call an asshole.” When he begins dating a seemingly perfect-for-him writer named Hannah, we wonder whether Nate will adapt or strike out yet again. Hannah is nice, smart, and makes him feel “at home,” but will Nate, who seems to feed off misconnecting with women, make the right relationship move—or is it yet another “dick move”? An acute study of present-day struggles with intimacy, Waldman seems to suggest that love is too constricting a tie for the 21st century, and that, perhaps, a different kind of connection might better define the contemporary couple. She navigates the male psyche and a highly entertaining hipster mindset, and sneaks in an unexpected, understated ending that brings this pulpy read a satisfying poignancy. Agent: Elyse Cheney, the Elyse Cheney Agency. (July)