End of the World House
Groundhog Day meets Ling Ma’s Severance in this “brilliant” (PopSugar) and “exhilarating” (The Millions) comedic novel about two young women trying to save their friendship as the world collapses around them.
Bertie and Kate have been best friends since high school. Bertie is a semi-failed cartoonist, working for a prominent Silicon Valley tech firm. Her job depresses her, but not as much as the fact that Kate has recently decided to move from San Francisco to Los Angeles.
When Bertie’s attempts to make Kate stay fail, she suggests the next best thing: a trip to Paris that will hopefully distract the duo from their upcoming separation. The vacation is also a sort of last hurrah, coming during the ceasefire in a series of escalating world conflicts.
One night in Paris, they meet a strange man in a bar who offers them a private tour of the Louvre. The women find themselves alone in the museum, where nothing is quite as it seems. Caught up in a day that keeps repeating itself, Bertie and Kate are eventually separated, and Bertie is faced with a mystery that threatens to derail everything. In order to make her way back to Kate, Bertie has to figure out how much control she has over her future—and her past—and how to survive in an apocalypse when the world keeps refusing to end.
Celt (Invitation to a Bonfire) returns with a confounding fun house that plays with the nature of time and existence to diminishing returns. In a near future, a restless California cartoonist named Bertie travels to Paris with her best friend, Kate. Things turn dark when Kate accepts an offer from a man named Javier to take a private tour of the Louvre. The moment they set foot in the museum, Kate disappears, and Celt introduces Dylan, a past (or future?) boyfriend of Bertie's. Nothing makes sense after that, and with Kate gone, Bertie and Dylan return home (or do they?). When Dylan reacts strangely to Bertie's idea for a graphic novel, Bertie realizes something is very wrong. Dylan seems to know everything about her, but he's keeping something big a secret. She takes another trip to Paris and begins to sketch out her novel (which turns out to be picture after picture of Kate), and returns to the Louvre to look for her friend and confront the upside-down world she's discovered. Some readers may be initially hooked by the ambitious premise, but storytelling pyrotechnics aside, neither the narrative nor the characters are fully realized. It's intriguing, but more so frustrating.