cover image At Certain Points We Touch

At Certain Points We Touch

Lauren John Joseph. Bloomsbury, $26 (384p) ISBN 978-1-5266-3130-5

Joseph’s middling debut about memory and toxic relationships shows flashes of brilliance, but ends up feeling overwrought and overlong. The unnamed narrator, a transfemme writer from Lancashire, England, realizes it’s the birthday of their deceased lover, Thomas James, and suddenly gets the urge to write about themself and their immensely unhealthy relationship with the enigmatic Thomas. The story spans a decade and several continents, as the narrator moves between London, San Francisco, and New York City. Interspersed are a vast array of friends made at parties, most importantly Adam, who eventually winds up in a toxic love triangle with the narrator and Thomas. The narrator constantly tries their best to rid themself of Thomas’s manipulative ways, but to no avail. A death impacts the final act, as the ensemble cast tries to pick up the pieces afterward. The author certainly has chops, as evidenced by the narrator’s sharp musings on the futility of existence (“all of these gestures we make, all of these cave paintings are just ways of killing a few hours before bed”), but the plot meanders and drags to the point of incoherence. This one needs a sharper focus to give its inspired moments their due. (Dec.)