Set in suburban Connecticut in 1983, The Fainting Room is about a young girl with a Philip Marlowe alter ego who becomes involved in a bizarre and ultimately destructive love triangle with a troubled married couple who take her in for the summer.
In a masterful exploration of longing and its consequences, Strong throws a teenager who craves attention, an architect in crisis, and a beautiful newlywed into an emotionally explosive triangle. Sixteen-year-old Ingrid is suspended from her boarding school and taken in by privileged Bostonian Ray Shepard and his troubled wife Evelyn. Evelyn grew up in a traveling circus with high-wire parents and married an abusive sword-swallower who later died. Ray offers the stability Evelyn has fantasized about all her life, but they're both frustrated by the difficulty she has with adjusting to his uptight lifestyle. Along with the tattoos that cover most of her body, Evelyn hides her background from Ray's friends and colleagues and has no job or friends of her own. Precocious, manipulative newcomer Ingrid soon has both Shepherds confiding in her. A thin mystery thread serves two entwined purposes in Strong's second novel (after Burning the Sea): the unraveling of Evelyn's secrets, and the evolution of Ingrid's noir-inspired alter ego. The magic, however, doesn't lie in the past, where the narrative veers dangerously close to melodrama, but in the present, with Strong's spellbinding insights into the complexity of desire.