I have been on a great reading streak lately. I've absolutely loved the last several books I've read, including Writers & Lovers by Lily King. It was recommended to me by a dear friend (who was also my roommate in my very first apartment) and by my mother (who reads several books per week).
The story centers around a young woman named Casey. She's in her early 30s, single, and living in Harvard Square in Cambridge, MA. She's a writer, but she's earning money by working as a waitress at a fictional restaurant called Iris. Both my mom and I are certain Iris was fashioned after Upstairs on the Square, a place we both adored. You can read my ode to that restaurant here.
The book begins with a melancholy tone. Casey is mourning the recent death of her mother, she's feeling uninspired to write and she's painfully behind on her bills. This is the opening paragraph of the entire book:
"I have a pact with myself not to think about money in the morning. I'm like a teenager trying not to think about sex. But I'm also trying not to think about sex. Or Luke. Or death. Which means not thinking about my mother, who died on vacation last winter. There are so many things I can't think about in order to write in the morning."
This deep feeling of loss is like a rain cloud that positions itself directly over Casey. Months later, she's still very fixated on the details of her mother's final days. I found this excerpt very poignant:
"I tried, in phone calls with Janet, to get more detail than pretty day and peaceful. I wanted everything, my mother's exact words and the smell of the clinic and the color of the walls. Were children kicking a ball outside? Was she holding Janet's hand? Who did she sit up to call? Was there any noise at all when her heart stopped? Why did it stop? I wanted to hear my mother tell it. She loved a story. She loved a mystery. She could mak any little incident intriguing. In her version, the doctor would have a wandering eye and three chickens in the back named after Tolstoy characters. Janet would have a heat rash on her neck. I wanted her and no one else to tell me the story of how she died."
Things begin to take a positive turn for Casey when she meets Oscar, a writer about 15 years her senior. They come into each other's orbit in the restaurant, when Casey waits on Oscar and his two sons. He's a widow and finds himself immediately enamored.
At the same time, Casey is also meeting up with a younger writer, Silas. He's a bit of an enigma, but she's magnetized to him.
As the reader, you're completely reeled into this love triangle. Should she choose Oscar, the sensible one, who can provide comfort and security? Or should she choose Silas, who makes her feel energized and alive?
I don't want to give anything away, because you should absolutely read this. In addition to the engrossing story, the Harvard Square references provide beautiful nostalgia. King describes Casey riding her bike over the BU Bridge each afternoon, sitting on the bank of the Charles River watching the geese, or walking by 20-somethings drinking at The Plough and Stars. This book has a deep sense of place.
*Image courtesy of The New York Times.