cover image Holding Pattern

Holding Pattern

Jenny Xie. Riverhead, $27 (288p) ISBN 978-0-593-53970-5

A woman struggles to come to terms with her mother’s newfound happiness while her own life falls apart in Xie’s funny and sharp debut. Kathleen Cheng has just been dumped by her boyfriend, prompting her to leave her graduate psychology program at Johns Hopkins and return home to her mother’s house in California. On impulse, she takes a job as a “cuddle provider,” providing clients with nonsexual touching. Meanwhile, her mother, Marissa, who emigrated with Kathleen from Shanghai when she was an infant and became a heavy drinker after divorcing her father, is now sober and on the verge of marrying a tech tycoon. As Kathleen puts together a Vegas bachelorette weekend for Marissa, crosses a boundary or two with a client, and deals with the fact that her high school boyfriend is now dating her best friend, she slowly begins to find a new path for herself. Xie’s strong character work keeps the narrative bubbling along on its episodic arc, and her affectionate study of the ways Kathleen and Marissa madden and inspire each other adds depth. This author is off to a stellar start. Agent: Sarah Bowlin, Aevitas Creative Management. (June)