Another Place You’ve Never Been

Rebecca Kauffman. Soft Skull (PGW, dist.), $25 (204p) ISBN 978-1-59376-656-6
At the center of Kauffman’s wonderful debut, a novel told in stories, is Tracy, who first appears as a 10-year-old visiting her father, living on disability near Lake Michigan, and then at 13 as the neighborhood bad girl in a story about a sleepover. Two nearly perfect stories feature Tracy as an adult: one in which she interrupts her cousin’s moment of intimacy with his girlfriend at an Embassy Suites, and another in which Tracy, now a restaurant hostess, begins an on-and-off relationship with a younger coworker named Greenie. Readers are also introduced to other characters that circle her in and around Buffalo, N.Y., including alcoholic Jim; his troubled son, Charlie; and Jim’s ex-wife, Laura. Greenie himself gets his own story as he leaves Tracy behind for an ill-fated job in New Jersey, culminating in a memorable moment atop a Ferris wheel. Watching how these characters intersect is incredibly satisfying. In clear and vivid prose, Kauffman potently depicts lonely and isolated lives, marked by rash decisions made in the hope of finding connection. By the end of the novel, the pieces of the puzzle that is Tracy’s life fit together, her disappointments as much a part of her as her small victories, resulting in an undeniably moving and emotionally true portrayal of the kitchen sink of human experience. Agent: Michelle Tessler, Tessler Literary Agency. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 08/01/2016
Release date: 10/11/2016
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