My review of Elissa Schappell's Blueprints for Building Better Girls and Lily Tuck's I Married You for Happiness is in the Philadelphia City Paper this week. Those 600 words only begin to describe how much I loved both books: the sharpness with which Schappell's characters flout social expectations even as they succumb to the rules, the elegance with which Tuck elides the laws of love and math. And I don't even like math! She makes me want to like math!
Honestly, I can't decide which these two writers know more about: writing women or writing sentences. They do both excruciatingly well.
Read the books. (No, you can't borrow mine. Not right now, anyway, because I've already loaned them out. So just BUY THEM, for the love of god. Please.)
And while you're at it, read their other books, too.
Schappell's first is the novel-in-stories Use Me, featuring Evie Wakefield, a character so brimming with selfhood she has to make a cameo appearance in Blueprints, too. It's about growing up in suburban Delaware; and trying to be an artist; and having a rich, promiscuous best friend; and breast feeding; and mourning the death of a glamorous, cancer-stricken father for years before he even dies. The book is all sexed up and devastatingly alive.
Tuck's previous novel, The News From Paraguay, which won the National Book Award in 2004, is a cool, unflinching story about the Irish mistress of a 19th century Paraguayan dictator, and a small, ambitious nation in the midst of civil war. I'm reading an older collection of her stories now, Limbo, and Other Places I Have Lived, and I'm still smitten. Wherever she wants to take me, I'll go. If only Schappell had more for me as well.
author of The Violet Hour, reader, prodigious eater of ice cream