cover image Temporary


Hilary Leichter. Coffee House/Emily, $16.95 trade paper (200p) ISBN 978-1-56689-566-8

Leichter’s funny, absurdist debut cleverly explores a capitalist society taken to a dreamlike extreme. The narrator is a temporary—an employee of the world, whose temp agency can place people in different jobs, from the banal (basic office work) to the incredibly unlikely (subbing in for a barnacle by clinging to a rock). She has 18 unnamed boyfriends, who bond in her apartment while she is gone. Her boss, a woman named Farren, places the lead on a pirate ship, where she is asked to kill a hostage. She rebels, only to end up working as an assistant to an assassin. Though the jobs are temporary, the narrator accumulates objects—such as stolen boots, and a necklace containing the ashes of the Chairman of the Board, whose ghost is a supporting character. A particularly strong section comes in the middle of the book, when the narrator remembers her first assignment: her mother leaves her to wander through an empty house and close its doors over and over again. Though consistently zany, there are moments of profundity: always coming back to her many boyfriends and the desire to realize “the steadiness” (a tongue-in-cheek aspiration to find a fulfilling, lifelong career), the heroine finally finds peace through her conversations with the Chairman. Leichter’s cutting, hilarious critique of the American dream will appeal to fans of Italo Calvino. (Mar.)