In this collection of vivid and engrossing stories Rebecca Miller explores the lives of seven multifaceted women.
From vastly different backgrounds and futures, the women are united by their struggles. But most of all they are bound together by their will to overcome and survive, the desire to get by and beyond.
We meet Greta, a cookbook editor who is catapulted to dizzying heights in her career, while her marriage struggles to stay afloat; Paula, a pregnant twenty-one-year-old who is haunted by the horror of a man who was hit by a car and died while walking her home from a nightclub; Delia, an abused working-class wife who goes into hiding with her children; and Louisa, a painter who moves from one lover to the next, acting out a self-perpetuating drama over which she has no control.
Edgy, fearless and beautifully spare, Personal Velocity marks the emergence of a singular new voice in American fiction.
'Seven women each have a fascinating, sometimes disturbing story to tell. Miller's simple yet tightly woven prose draws you in to each and every one.' Cosmopolitan
Reading this slim collection is a bit like watching the Lifetime channel with the sound off: recognizable character types are identifiable by their physical appearance and habitats and the dramas they play out are presented with little elucidation. In the seven sketches in this debut, contemporary women (and one girl) from various backgrounds tussle with work, relationships and identity. Representing the affluent are frustrated and insecure Julianne, married to a much older famous poet; troubled nine-year-old Nancy, who contends with a dissatisfied socialite mother and a father who barely notices her presence; and Greta, a young editor in New York whose newfound success is incompatible with her marriage. Then there is flaky artist Louisa, tumbling from one affair to the next; and Paula, pregnant and in denial, who tries to help a young hitchhiker on a rainy night. Rounding out the group is working-class Delia, an abused wife who relies on her sexuality, and Bryna, a farmer's wife who likes to imagine herself being interviewed for Redbook(and who has brief walk-ons as a cleaning woman in two of the other stories). Miller does know something about the people in these worlds (she is particularly tuned into the shorthand, insider chat of rich bohemians), but the affectless prose not to mention the author's penchant for describing her characters' breasts and buttocks doesn't allow for much character development or resolution, and often reads like flat reportage. Some grit and a few moments of poignancy are in evidence, but the collection provides little insight into the unique inner workings of seven very different women.