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Library Journal Review
Andrea Bern is a mixed-up, messed-up native New Yorker, the type you meet at a party and take an instant liking to, but by evening's end you're inching toward the exit. Then the next day you wonder what she's up to; perhaps she's free to meet for coffee. Attenberg's (Saint Maizie; The Middlesteins) heroine tells her story in choppy, time-hopping vignettes that evoke laughter, occasional revulsion, sympathy, and exasperation. Andrea has anger issues, she drinks too much, she hates her job but can't quit, she bed-hops and obsesses. Backtracking chapters explain some of the pain-a mentor rejects her, her father ODs when she's a teen, her distracted mother isn't there for her. But Andrea's a survivor, a funny observer of her off-kilter life. Not all the supporting characters are fleshed out, an ailing child is less than a Macguffin, but the author perfectly captures the voice of a special New Yorker and her city. VERDICT -Attenberg's novel is layered and deceptive, as is her heroine. You'll enter Andrea's world for the throwaway lines and sardonic humor, but stay for the poignancy and depth. Recommended for readers who like complicated characters à la Jennifer Egan and Maria Semple. [See Prepub Alert, 10/3/16.]-Liz French, Library Journal © Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly Review
Attenberg's (Saint Mazie) new novel is a bildungsroman with a twist, adapting a coming-of-age narrative to a protagonist who is not as young as her immaturity sometimes suggests. In her 30s, New Yorker Andrea Bern is a gifted artist whose talents don't quite extend to mastering adulthood as those around her understand it. While her friends dedicate themselves to building families or careers and her brother and sister-in-law cope with a terminally ill child, Andrea seems stuck in a holding pattern. She abandons the art making she loves, clings to a dead-end job, and embraces drinking and rote sexual encounters; though not making much headway, she sees a therapist for nearly a decade in an attempt to grapple with inner wounds, notably the overdose death of her musician father in the family apartment when she was 13. The novel's darkly comic voice is a delight to read, capturing Andrea's sharp insights as well as her self-destructiveness, while brief chapters that shift back and forth in time effectively convey both the chaos and the stasis of her personal landscape. (Mar.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
*Starred Review* It's a truth universally acknowledged that a single woman in her late thirties must be in want of a husband and kids. Guilty of making these assumptions about Andrea Bern are her mother, her friends, and even some of the guys she just wants to sleep with. She works, she parties, she dates, she buys herself a steak dinner when she feels like it. She mocks the advertising job she could do blindfolded, and still writhes from abandoning her artistic career, ages ago now. She's unsettled by her brother and sister-in-law, once a gracious dream couple, who are faltering through their daughter's profound sickness; by her mother's leaving her to go help them out; and by memories of the father she lost. Told in vignettes that circle around and through one another much like the daily drawings Andrea makes of the Empire State Building, until the view from her Brooklyn apartment is blocked Andrea's story is stinging, sweet, and remarkably fleshed out in relatively few pages. Attenberg follows her best-selling family novel, The Middlesteins (2012) with a creative, vivid tableau of one woman's whole life, which almost can't help but be a comment on all the things women ought to be and to want, which Attenberg conveys with immense, aching charm.--Bostrom, Annie Copyright 2017 Booklist
Kirkus Book Review
Deeply perceptive and dryly hilarious, Attenberg's (Saint Mazie, 2015, etc.) latest novel follows Andrea Bern: on the cusp of 40, single, child-free by choice, and reasonably content, she's living a life that still, even now, bucks societal conventions. But without the benchmarks of "grown up" successan engagement, a husband, a babyAndrea is left to navigate her own shifting understanding of adulthood."Why is being single the only thing people think of when they think of me? I'm other things, too," Andrea says, much to the delight of her therapist, who wants to know, then, what exactly those other things are. She is a woman, Andrea says. A designer who works in advertising; a New Yorker; technically, a Jew. A friend, she tells her therapist. A daughter, a sister, an aunt. Here are the things that Andrea does not say: she's alone. A drinker. A former artist. A shrieker in bed. At 39, Andrea is neither an aspirational figure nor a cautionary tale of urban solitude. She is, instead, a human being, a person who, a few years ago, got a pair of raises at work and paid off her debt from her abandoned graduate program and then bought some real furniture, as well as proper wine glasses. And still she does not fully compute to the people around her, people whose "lives are constructed like buildings, each precious but totally unsurprising block stacked before your eyes." Everyone is married or marrying, parenting or pregnant, and it's not so much that she's lusting after these things, specificallyneither marriage nor babies is her "bag," anywayso much as it's that her lack of them puts her at odds with the adult world and its definitions of progress. Structured as a series of addictive vignettesthey fly by if you let them, though they deserve to be savoredthe novel is a study not only of Andrea, but of her entire ecosystem: her gorgeous, earthy best friend whose perfect marriage maybe isn't; her much younger co-worker; her friend, the broke artist, who is also her ex-boyfriend and sometimes her current one. And above all, her brother and his wife, whose marriage, once a living affirmation of the possibility of love, is now crumbling under the pressure of their terminally ill child. Wry, sharp, and profoundly kind; a necessary pleasure. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.