An intoxicating, stunning story of self-destruction and redemption set against the vibrantly painted underworld of New York City, from the critically acclaimed author of White Fur.
Lee, hedonistic yet earnest, is on the cusp of a breakdown. Her wild nights out and her management shifts at a Tribeca restaurant are fueled by cocaine and pink champagne, and her glamorous lifestyle is financed by wealthy older men who shower her with gifts. Once an aspiring painter, she can’t remember the last time she touched a canvas. Her old friend Belinda, a reformed party girl, has grown up and distanced herself from both Lee and the reckless lifestyle they once shared. Kai, the man she thought was her soulmate, has left her for Paris, and she is in treacherous territory with her sugar daddy, Yves. When she receives an eviction notice from her landlord, Lee is forced to acknowledge that her life is unraveling at the seams and consider the possibility that there might be meaning in life beyond what can be found in the arms of strange men and the effects of reality-altering substances.
Despite her tough exterior, Lee is a vulnerable young woman trying to numb her inner turmoil with sex, drugs, and alcohol. Hypnotic descriptions of her romantic exploits and drunken nights are interspersed with nostalgic memories of her late mother, a stark contrast that alludes to an enduring innocence beneath the chaotic exterior. When Lee finds a seemingly genuine connection in Kelly, the new bartender at her restaurant who is grieving from a loss of his own, she strives to stand on her own and free herself from the grip of her debt and vices.
With her signature hypnotizing, elegant prose, Libaire delves deep into Lee’s intimate, toxic relationship with the city nightlife and her own identity.
They say the best nonfiction reads like fiction. But is the reverse also true? It would seem so after reading this gorgeously written debut novel, whose narrator is so keenly evoked that her reminiscences read like a memoir. Lee is one of New York's party girls extraordinaire. She's also a complete train wreck. She manages a trendy Tribeca restaurant yet can't pay the rent on a railroad flat in Brooklyn's hipster ghetto. Not many salaries could support her ravenous appetite for drugs or her taste for white knee-length furs from Bergdorf's. Still in mourning over her mother's death two years ago, Lee likens herself to a pint of raspberries: "On top the ruby berries looked juicy. Unwrapped and spilled into the colander, they revealed undersides black with rot." In deftly rendered scenes and flashbacks, Libaire introduces us to the eccentrics who occupy Lee's life: Yves, her French sugar daddy; Kelly, an enigmatic wanderer; Belinda, her reformed best friend. She's able to capture a character's essence in a single, lovely phrase, particularly Lee's mother: "Guests would arrive at eight and find her in a damp bikini, only beginning to scour cookbooks for ideas. But the night would be unforgettable." Laced with musings about art and marked by unexpected metaphors ("Drugs turned the cardboard box of an ordinary day into a honeycomb, dripping and blond"), the book summons consistently powerful images. But like a sloppy night of boozing recalled the morning after, some readers will wonder what the point was. More of an extended character study than a plot-focused narrative, it floats along on a cloud of Lee's narcissism, celebrating "poverty and dependence" as glamorous, despite efforts to convince the reader otherwise.