At first, Sam delights in her new neighborhood. Like a vacationer in Paris, she discovers a bakery and a grocer, “marveling that everything she needed was in walking distance.” But she rapidly realizes that she has not merely traded a new home for an previous one, she’s deserted the fabric security of the suburbs. Even the cash Matt doles out to her — pondering the home and the divorce a momentary whim — can’t defend her, a girl alone, in a neighborhood the place “opioid zombies” roam the streets and photographs ring out at daybreak.
But because the months put on on, Sam decides the home has given her function. “This was why you came here,” she thinks. “You came here to witness, to see the world and then to act and make it better.”
This is, in some methods, acquainted territory for Spiotta, whose exactly noticed, fiercely clever fictions all hinge on ladies who resist consolation and safety, who query — and usually surrender — the trimmings of wealth and success, discovering refuge on the margins of society. But whereas Spiotta’s earlier novels run on Didion-like chilly fusion, “Wayward” reads like a burning fever dream, powered by sizzling fury somewhat than icy take away. There is a mythic high quality to her narration, in addition to a darkish pressure of humor, as if she — like Sam — can’t fairly imagine the world in which we’ve discovered ourselves.
That world, exactly, can be 2017, maybe six weeks after Trump’s inauguration. “Is this about the election?” Matt asks, when Sam tells him she’s leaving. It’s not, she insists; nevertheless, she has, in the following months, morphed from a Talbots-clad housewife into somebody who feels not simply derision however anger towards her well-kept friends, with their “age-defying, sculpted shoulders and upper arms,” their “expertly balayaged highlights” and “gray-disguising ash-blond.” Sam finds refuge in Facebook teams with (hilarious) names like “CNY Crones” and “Hardcore Hags, Harridans and Harpies,” not realizing — tragically — the extent to which she’s gone down a rabbit gap, forsaking clueless Matt and her scarily self-motivated 17-year-old, Ally, by way of whose jaded eyes Spiotta exhibits us Sam, from time to time. The image, after all, isn’t fairly.
Nor is “Wayward.” But it’s one thing much better: a virtuosic, singular and very humorous portrait of a girl searching for sanity and function in a world gone mad. And right here’s the factor: In the eight years since these first nights in my new residence, I’ve remarried and moved to a charming home in a lovely neighborhood. My life is completely happy and full. But as I learn “Wayward,” I felt a twinge of envy for Sam’s silent home, for her capability to present order to her personal days, and for her livid try to stay “an honest life. More than that,” truly: “a good life. You can do nothing or you can do better.”