Very quickly, it becomes clear to a reader that Annie, the fat and frumpy narrator of this novel, is mad.
Annie’s story begins in the present, as she moves into a new house and begins a new life. Following the advice of self-help books like “Find Your Inner Goddess’’ and “Come Out of Your Shell,’ she throws a house-warming party, which is a disaster by any standards . . . except her own. Encouraged to interpret her behavior in a positive light, she praises herself for her expert handling of the party’s tricky social situations. Soon she imagines a romantic future for herself with her new neighbor Neil and initiates a vicious rivalry with Neil’s girlfriend, Lucy. Slowly, her past is revealed. It includes a husband, a daughter, a tragic accident, and sexual assignations made by answering ads in Abundance magazine.
Her fantastic dreams of a love affair with Neil are only slightly upsetting compared with her memories of her infant daughter. She refers to the baby as “a screaming knot of accidental flesh” whose calls she ignores by stuffing her ears with cotton wool. Ashworth draws a powerful portrait of a mad woman, whose delusions are formed and fostered by a pop culture that ignores error, erases doubt, and excuses failure.
By Barbara Fisher