cover image We Were the Universe

We Were the Universe

Kimberly King Parsons. Knopf, $28 (288p) ISBN 978-0-525-52185-3

In the spunky debut novel from Parsons (following the collection Black Light), a 20-something woman deals with grief and the demands of motherhood by maintaining a prodigious porn habit. Before Kit was married, she coped with depression by using psychedelic drugs and having sex with strangers. Now, three years after her younger sister Julie’s death in a car accident and overwhelmed by caring for her three-year-old daughter, Kit seeks an escape in gangbang videos and elaborate masturbation fantasies about the men and women she interacts with over the course of her daily routine in suburban Texas. These fantasy partners include her daughter’s gymnastics teacher, a scruffy dad who shops at the same grocery store, and a fellow mom at the playground. Her husband, Jad, and her friend Pete worry she’s become too isolated, and Pete takes her along on a trip to Montana. Not a great deal happens—Kit’s porn habit continues in the Montana hotel room, Pete struggles to get over his ex-boyfriend, and there are some tense scenes involving Fireball-slugging locals. The narrative’s best sections share Kit’s insights on her past psychedelic experiences and the complicated valences of love: “Maybe talking about a trip is like telling somebody your dream—they have to love you to care about it.” There’s a beating heart at the center of this meandering story. Agent: Meredith Kaffel Simonoff, Genert Co. (May)