The Red Car

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Average quality, quick read tale by Marcy Dermansky about a woman in crisis, a married writer who doesn’t love her husband (they’re both writers and she hates his loud music, sometimes escapes to her parents’ house in Jersey to write) who gets an email from an ex-co-worker to tell her that Judy, her old boss, has been killed in a car wreck. Judy has left Leah (the writer) her red car, the one that killed her, along with a painting and a bit of money. Her old co-worker Diego buys her a first-class ticket back to San Francisco with a 2 week return date, and Leah escapes New York after being strangled by her husband Hans. Some crappy “let’s go see the sea lions at Fisherman’s Wharf” scenes in SF and random hookups with lesbians who live in the house where she used to live 10 years ago (and miraculously there are 3 boxes of her stuff still in the closet?) and with Diego on his bathroom floor. A weird swirl of stuff that doesn’t go down as well as the more buttoned up mid-century British fiction I’ve been devouring lately. What is the difference? Why do “modern” books all involve sex/drugs/violence? Is the breaking down of the moral code of conduct a necessary thing to demonstrate? Anyway, I liked this barely enough to finish reading.

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Some other thoughts:  perhaps the lack comes from the woodenness of the characters. Her husband, Hans, is violent—breaking a house plant and then strangling her; she married him so he could get a visa; she muses constantly about all the things she’s paid for over the years; he keeps sending her emails asking for her editing help with his writing. He’s an asshole mooch that she’s gotten used to. There’s no difficult dilemma here about what to do. She didn’t really need Judy’s money in order to escape.

Also, a lot of random characters. The hotel clerk at the inn in Big Sur. The lesbian writer she has a brief afternoon fling with. The Grateful Dead mechanic. Her pals at Stanford in their pink kitten shirts. The rich dude from college who loves her still. These all seem thrown in to see what will happen.