BOOKS | 22 February 2016 Issue

This astute, restless début novel follows Elsie, a “pretty, damaged woman” in her twenties, who is confronting “the question of what to do” in life. The novel glows with the malaise of the Bush years: Elsie gets obsessed with Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo, and heads to Sri Lanka—“a tropical paradise that was also a recent war zone.” In her wearied pursuit of meaning, she toys with the idea of becoming a translator or a Buddhist nun, an English teacher in a foreign country, a “trophy wife.” Although Elsie makes rash decisions, her thoughts about intimacy and desire are searching and considered, and Tennant-Moore depicts even her most startling fantasies with analytical froideur.

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