cover image Acts of Service

Acts of Service

Lillian Fishman. Hogarth, $27 (240p) ISBN 978-0-593-24376-3

Fishman’s alluring if punctilious debut poses questions about sex, sexuality, and power via the story of a young woman’s exploration of desire. Eve, 27, a bisexual waitress living in New York City who had previously chosen to sleep exclusively with women, posts some nudes on an online message board without her girlfriend’s knowledge. When a woman named Olivia messages her and asks her to meet up, Eve does, and she is soon embroiled in a torrid affair with the upper-class Olivia and Nathan, a tall, hetero, 30-something investment banker Olivia was already sleeping with. After sex, she thinks of erotic passages from James Salter. Eve begins to question the power dynamics of the threesome after she learns that Olivia works for Nathan; she also wonders about the politics of her heterosexual lust: “So I’m supposed to think I can’t damage myself, that things don’t hurt me, if I choose them, if I see them clearly? Isn’t that just the deepest submission to power?” The prose is smooth and smart, and the sex scenes elicit maximum titillation, but the result, which conforms to contemporary sub-dom lifestyle dynamics as the narrator explores her conflicting desires, ultimately feels more tame than transgressive. Fishman has a great deal of talent, though this feels a lot like 50 Shades of Grey for the Ivy League set. Agent: Dan Kirshen, ICM Partners. (May)