cover image The Girl Who Never Read Noam Chomsky

The Girl Who Never Read Noam Chomsky

Jana Casale. Knopf, $26.95 (368p) ISBN 978-1-5247-3199-1

Casale’s elegant, sharply drawn debut follows Leda, a girl whose myriad goals—to read Noam Chomsky, to be “linear,” to find love, to be a writer, to plant a garden—chafe against inevitable compromise and “oppressively real” life. In short story–like episodes, Casale explores the signal moments of Leda’s life: a bad one-night stand; giving up grad school in Boston to move to California with her boyfriend, John; marrying and having a baby girl, Annabelle; seeing her daughter’s first school play. Casale’s clear-eyed examination of a woman’s life is done with abundant humor—a swimsuit mishap in a department store fitting room is a laugh-out-loud gem—and aching melancholy: “Life could be so unreal and so vivid all at once you’d think it was a dream,” Casale writes of an inconsolable Leda after the death of her mother. “She would search for her mom forever everywhere she would go.” As a youngster, Leda believes the “first innate truth of her womanhood” is that one must “never be fat.” The last innate truth, she finds, is that “womanhood is loneliness.” In between, readers will be captivated by Leda’s life. [em]Agent: Amelia Atlas, ICM Partners. (Apr.) [/em]