“We are all walking around this city with our hearts sadly swimming in our chests, like dying fish on the surface of a still pond. It’s enough to make you give up entirely.” —from Instant Love
But we don’t give up. We keep trying. We’re either too stupid to learn from our mistakes or we honestly believe that the next time will be different; it’s hard to say which. Driven by the mad hopefulness that is part of the human condition, we are constantly falling in and out of love with a slightly different version of the person who came before. Jami Attenberg chronicles those exact moments with heartbreaking realism in her powerful debut, Instant Love.
Told through the eyes of three young women and their friends and lovers, Instant Love explores what it means to be in love, what it means to be lonely, and what it means to be both at the same time. Holly turns to computer dating to find love even as she thinks wistfully of a former boyfriend who loved her well and fed her ice cream. Maggie recounts the story of her one crazy summer to her disbelieving husband and feels the distance between them grow wider than the void across their king-sized bed. And Sarah Lee remembers the one who got away and the one she ran away from, all the while moving toward the one she can actually love.
As Holly, Maggie, and Sarah Lee move through the rituals of modern love, they have to decide who is worth taking a chance on in a world where things don’t fall into place easily, people are often difficult, and disappointment is the rule. Through their stories, Attenberg presents a rare, honest look at love.
Also available as an eBook.
Attenberg's first novel focuses on the precise moments at which a handful of women fall in love, out of love and back in again: spontaneous Holly; her grounded big sister, Maggie; shy artist Sarah Lee; and a gaggle of their cohorts. Beginning with Holly, 17 years old and working after school at a pharmacy, the novel leapfrogs in time and place, taking us from Holly's crush on her co-worker Shelly's makeup to Maggie's lackluster date with her future husband, Robert, and Sarah Lee's aggravated attempts to overcome her stutter and make a human connection in New York City. Unfolding through several points of view, sometimes to disorienting effect, chapters are broken into short but detailed scenes, yielding a brutally honest story of human relationships that brings together several plot lines. Written in a sparse style that puts Attenberg's background as a journalist to strong use, this funny, perceptive debut earns its hopeful if uncertain ending, giving wisdom to a sentiment as saccharine as one character's belief "that we are the sum of all of the loves before us until we reach our one great love."