cover image Vladimir


Julia May Jonas. Avid Reader, $27 (256p) ISBN 978-1-98218-763-7

Playwright Jonas debuts with a mordantly funny post-#MeToo campus story about a 50-something woman unhinged by desire for a younger man. The unnamed narrator, a tenured English professor at a small upstate New York liberal arts college, starts the fall semester embroiled in scandal. The scandal is not hers (at least not at first)—her husband, John, also a professor in the department, has been placed on leave pending the results of a hearing after being accused of sexual predation by a host of young women, many of them former students. Denounced by both her colleagues and her adult daughter for her complicity in John’s behavior, the narrator retreats into obsessive sexual fantasies about a new young colleague, Vladimir. She also yearns to recapture the physical allure of her youth and revive her own stagnant writing, and by the end, her behavior turns monstrous. Vain, narcissistic, and seemingly oblivious to the absurdity of her actions, the narrator can nevertheless pluck at readers’ sympathies, especially in the generous and thoughtful ways she helps her daughter during her own personal crisis. The author generously studs the narrative with clever literary allusions (the narrator describes her mind in contrast to Edna St. Vincent Millay’s: “more like a chaotic battle scene than the unfurling of insight”), and surprisingly upends assumptions about gender, power, and shame. Jonas is off to a strong start. (Feb.)