cover image Sad Janet

Sad Janet

Lucie Britsch. Riverhead, $27 (288p) ISBN 978-0-593-08652-0

In Britsch’s darkly comic debut, a deadpan, abrasive narrator muses on her depression. “There’s no word in the English language that properly describes this feeling I have, the one that makes other people uncomfortable,” Janet thinks. After getting a degree in postmodern feminist science fiction, Janet takes a job at a dog shelter out in the woods with an equally depressed boss and a slightly sunnier co-worker. Everyone she knows, including her parents and boyfriend, is on one antidepressant or another, and they’re all attempting to get Janet, who clings to what she calls her “manageable melancholia,” to do the same. What plot there is revolves around whether Janet will take a newly invented pill designed to increase one’s appreciation of Christmas—181 days away at the start of the novel, yet heavy on Janet’s mind—and if she does, if it will work. Meanwhile, she spends her time napping, drinking, and curling up on dog beds pretending to be a dog. Preternaturally self-aware, Janet has a gift for homing in on her own emotional state and everyone else’s, which Britsch renders in rueful, knowing prose that may land or miss, depending on if the reader can relate to pronouncements such as “the cool kids call it melancholia, because of that Lars von Trier movie.” Still, Britsch’s monologue about the experience of unhappiness is undeniably infectious. (June)