cover image Looker


Laura Sims. Scribner, $25 (192p) ISBN 978-1-5011-9911-0

Jealousy rears its ugly head in Sims’s chilling and riveting debut. The unnamed narrator is a middle-aged evening school professor who recently separated from her husband, Nathan, after their prolonged inability to become pregnant. She lives in an unnamed city—but probably Brooklyn—down the block from a famous actress (referred to as “the actress” throughout), her screenwriter husband, and their three young children. The narrator can’t help comparing her drab life to the actress’s glamorous one and is constantly fantasizing about her fairy tale lifestyle. The narrator leads a lonely existence, but there are a few others who populate it, including Mrs. H, her nosy neighbor; Bernardo, her poetry student whom she thinks is coming on to her; and Cat, Nathan’s pet that he left behind. She does odd things such as stealing castoff objects (Birkenstocks, a child’s bike) left outside the actress’s townhouse and using them to build a shrine to her in her apartment. Then, at a block party, the narrator tries to make meaningful contact with the actress, but events conspire disastrously against her, and it’s all downhill from there, bottoming out in a tragedy. In this tightly plotted novel, Sims takes the reader fully into the mind of a woman becoming increasingly unhinged, and turns her emotionally fraught journey into a provocative tale about the dangers of coveting what belongs to another. (Jan.)