The List is an irreverent, sophisticated take on the classic breakup story. In fierce and exquisite prose, Tara Ison has written an astonishing story of love and hate.
Isabel is finishing medical school and destined to become a brilliant heart surgeon. Al is a video store clerk, a one-hit-wonder director whose first and only film became a cult classic. Their electric, passionate, and deeply maddening relationship can't possibly work. Tired of endlessly coming together and breaking up, they make a list of ten things to do before they finally say good-bye. But after a few perfect dates the list takes a dark turn, and their plan spirals out of control as they realize they would rather destroy each other than let go.
Isabel, a promising and dedicated medical student, is intent on becoming a heart surgeon, but she takes a detour when she meets Al, a washed-up movie director who now clerks at a video store. The two meet at a midnight showing of his one and only film (a cult hit) and embark on an intense, sexually driven relationship. They soon realize they bring out the worst in each other ("dysfunctional, whipped idiots," according to Al), but after every breakup, they get back together, prompting Isabel to concoct a scheme to finally break it off: they are to go on 10 ideal dates with each other, and then "part amicably." As they work through the list, each begins to see the other differently and the list gets extended. The date ideas get more involved (group sex, going to the planetarium after eating psychedelic mushrooms) and the charged sexual chemistry between Isabel and Al morphs into abusiveness. Despite the satisfyingly dark buildup, Ison (A Child Out of Alcatraz) only partially succeeds in constructing her characters' psychological underpinnings, which shortchanges the climax's intensity.