Tuesday, May 9, 2023

BOOK REVIEW: The Guest by Emma Cline

I received this book for free from Netgalley. That did not influence this review.

The Guest by Emma Cline is a stark, sad novel about a young (early twenties) woman who belongs nowhere and hustles her way through life. Alex is a modern-day Holly Golightly but darker and with drugs.

Alex has run from a toxic relationship with a dangerous man named Dom, who is now stalking her. She escaped the city (an unnamed city) with a fifty-ish man named Simon, who took her along to his beach house for the summer. Simon is a shallow, wealthy man, divorced, fitness-obsessed, who gravitates to trophy girlfriends. He buys her things. She skims from his supply of painkillers. She spends her days lounging on the beach and trying to be agreeable. She wants this safe place to last. 

She isn’t the first of his young lovers. And he is not the first man she has sold herself to. But she is having trouble finding new “clients.” It takes more and more effort. She’s burned too many bridges. Simon is a lifeline and the security he represents takes on a mythic quality as Alex drifts farther and farther from any solid footing in life.

Floating around amidst Simon’s friends, ungodly wealthy summer people, Alex is aware of the falseness of their lives and recognizes that she doesn’t belong. Still, she wants to keep this relationship going. But she missteps. Simon throws her out. This is a pattern. Alex cannot stop self-sabotaging.

The remainder of the story is an odyssey of sorts. Alex does not return to the city. Instead, she attempts only to survive the next few days. Simon is throwing a Labor Day party and she believes, or tells herself that she believes, that she needs only to show up at the party and he’ll be so glad to see her that he’ll take her back. So she wanders, grifting, using people, detaching herself from reality, and breaking things and people along the way. Readers will weep for her, but not much, since she is hardly actually there.

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