cover image Falling Under

Falling Under

Danielle Younge-Ullman. Plume Books, $14 (356pp) ISBN 978-0-452-28965-9

Playwright Young-Ullman's first novel is a familiar story about a young woman balancing love and career, told with some artsy flourishes and a touch of dark wit. Painter Mara Foster avoids leaving her house for fear of gruesome accidents, wears only black and gray, and prefers one-night-stands to relationships. Rooted in her parents' ugly divorce and a past lover's suicide (indicated through oblique references), Mara's dark moods and self-doubt make her an edgy, self-conscious narrator, but her agoraphobia is often dispensed with when it's less than convenient to the narrative. Childhood flashbacks, written in the second person, provide more pretension than psychological insight. Mara's relationships with her best friend, Bernadette, and her penitent father provide the novel its most honest moments, but the men romantically complicating Mara's life are so broadly drawn as to be interchangeable. When Younge-Ullman's time-shifting narrative finally gives up the whole story of Mara's past, the catharsis doesn't adequately address the building conflicts, leading to a disappointing, deliberately ambiguous ending.