cover image The Guest

The Guest

Emma Cline. Random House, $28 (304p) ISBN 978-0-8129-9862-7

A 22-year-old woman loses her apartment and her grip on reality in the provocative latest from Cline (The Girls). After Alex’s sex work dries up, she gets kicked out of her place in New York City and takes up the offer from Simon, an affluent older man, to spend the summer in the Hamptons. All goes well until a week before Simon’s Labor Day party, when Alex dings his car, and Simon suggests she head back to the city. Hoping to preserve what luster she can in Simon’s eyes, she doesn’t mention she has nowhere to go and convinces herself she’ll be welcome at his party. She then launches a series of schemes to get through the next five days, taking advantage of strangers’ assumptions that she belongs. As Alex wanders from a rental full of hard partiers to a pool house on property left vacant for renovations, she draws on her sex work skills to keep herself welcome and leaves a trail of destruction. Before the first couple days are out, she’s slept with another girl’s boyfriend and damaged a blue-chip painting, while holding out hope, however misguided, that Simon will be happy to see her again. Cline has a keen eye for class differences and makes Alex into an intriguing protagonist who has learned to be observant, but must also recognize she’s losing her judgment if she wants to survive. Like watching a car crash, this is hard to look away from. Agent: Bill Clegg, Clegg Agency. (May)