cover image Artifact


Arlene Heyman. Bloomsbury, $27 (288p) ISBN 978-1-63557-471-5

Psychiatrist Heyman’s richly drawn debut novel (after the collection Scary Old Sex) delves into the life of Lottie Levinson, a 42-year-old college science professor. It’s 1984, and Lottie, happily married to her second husband, Jake, balances an intricate research project with battles against misogyny in the lab and the demands of being a wife and mother. Times weren’t much simpler in Lottie’s Midwest childhood in the repressive 1950s, when Lottie’s authoritarian father could not quash her excitement about science and sex, and she became pregnant at 16 with her high school boyfriend, Charlie. Lottie’s miscarriage brought the couple closer, and they got married after Charlie’s promising college and pro football career was crushed by a leg injury in his senior year at the University of Michigan. Lottie, against Charlie’s objections, becomes a medical lab tech and gains the self-confidence she will need when her first marriage implodes. Every achievement Lottie makes in life is one she fights hard for, whether it’s the professional recognition she deserves or finding a life partner in Jake, who adores her for who she is and fulfills her carnal needs as she matures into middle age. The explicit sex of Heyman’s stories is on full display here, just as daring if occasionally gratuitous. This no-holds-barred account of a woman’s quest to find satisfaction in her life is a showcase of Heyman’s remarkable style. (July)