New novels from Melissa Broder, Vendela Vida, and Lauren Oyler give their protagonists room to be as messy as they need to be.

By Leah GreenblattMary Sollosi and Seija Rankin
February 01, 2021 at 04:47 PM EST
Advertisement
Credit: Ecco; Scribner; Catapult

Milk Fed, by Melissa Broder

If self-denial were a sport, Rachel could host her own Olympics. At 24, her life is centered on one objective — not her halfhearted job at an L.A. talent agency, not her nonexistent social life, and certainly not her neurotic mother, checking in daily from New Jersey. "All that mattered," she declares, "was what I ate, when I ate, and how I ate it." Until the day she places her usual order (fat-free, no toppings please) at her frozen yogurt spot and is instead served a decadent sundae by Miriam, an Orthodox Jew whose cups runneth over in every way. The simple pleasure that Miriam takes in faith and family and the flesh that spills beyond her waistband like so many buttermilk biscuits is a revelation — and an erotic awakening, too. In her wildly readable prose, Melissa Broder (So Sad Today) has produced one of the strangest and sexiest novels of the new year: a harrowing, exhilarating, and frankly obscene exploration of all the ways we endeavor to make ourselves disappear — and the untold liberty that comes when our appetites are freed at last. Grade: A-

—Leah Greenblatt

We Run the Tides, by Vendela Vida

In 1980s SanFrancisco, in a tony oceanside neighborhood where "everything ugly is hidden," a best friendship splinters after a shocking disagreement. From there, two teenagers take divergent, twisty paths into young womanhood in this perceptive tale of losing innocence and finding one's true self. As consistently surprising as it is hauntingly resonant (not to mention often very funny), Vida's chronicle of female friendship is a fast, addictive read; while it's almost a shame to finish it so quickly, the novel's very brevity also feels somehow true—as fleeting as a memory. Grade: B+

—Mary Sollosi

Fake Accounts, by Lauren Oyler

In the weeks preceding the 2017 inauguration, a politically progressive twentysomething digital writer breaks into her boyfriend's phone because she suspects he's cheating. The truth is even worse: He's leading a double life as an influential online right-wing conspiracy theorist. That premise alone carries enough intrigue to span an entire novel's worth of plot, but Fake Accounts doesn't stop there. The unnamed narrator takes her new emotional spiral to Berlin, where she tries to find herself amid the city's raging bar scene, dreary weather, and monotonous apartment sublets, all the while offering up an inner monologue full of brilliantly astute cultural criticisms. The premise may sound dark, but Lauren Oyler's delightfully wry, sharply observational prose turns the protagonist's pity party into a lively affair. B+

—Seija Rankin

Related content:

Comments