cover image The Fallback Plan

The Fallback Plan

Leigh Stein. Melville (Random, dist.), $16.95 trade paper (208p) ISBN 978-1-61219-042-6

Stein, 26, captures the voice of the young 20-something prodigal daughter with the clarion call of authenticity in her debut novel. Esther Kohler is a burned-out recent college grad who has returned to the claustrophobic embrace of her suburban family home following a depressive episode in her final semester at Northwestern University. An aspiring actress and screenwriter (Esther’s inchoate screenplay features characters and tropes borrowed from her favorite childhood books), she spends her days taking prescription pills and tagging along on the misadventures of her childhood friend, Pickle, and his “devastatingly attractive” but unstable buddy, Jack. Esther’s poor decision-making skills have an amusing universality, and Stein’s dry humor lends a nicely angst-free tone to her misadventures. In acquiescence to her parents, she accepts a babysitting job for a family who recently lost a child. Esther finds her own life becoming inextricably linked with a family with “real problems,” forcing her to take that last step away from adolescence and to embrace the future. Stein’s light, accessible, self-deprecating prose makes this coming-of-age story a pleasure. (Jan.)