From Publishers Weekly
Should Frances Johnson leave her hometown of Munson, Fla. to search for chicken-beak oil, the missing ingredient for Dr. Palmer's secret balm? Or should she marry Mark Carol, the new doctor in town, though he hasn't proposed and there's little indication that he's even interested? Frances's military-history obsessed boyfriend, Ray Garn, encourages her to do the latter, even though Ray and Frances are currently living together. Meanwhile, outside town, there's an undersea volcano that erupts with some regularity. If Frances's life sounds random, that's because it is. What makes the book compelling, much like Levine's debut novel, Dra—
, is its play of words and images, its irregular pacing and its capture of what it means to be trapped in a life with meaningless choices. Frances spends a night with a man who lives in a cave, discovers a scar on her leg that may or may not be a tumor and kisses her boyfriend's brother for no apparent reason and to no apparent consequence. Each vignette has a strange, almost possible quality. "For how long will Frances Johnson go in circles?" the omniscient narrator asks rhetorically at one point. Readers of this pocket-sized book will indulge her as long as she likes. (Feb.)
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Levine always manages to surprise her readers with twists that are often hilarious and often slightly disturbing. If it feels like we've been here before, underneath this dance floor, gazing up at the townsfolk above, it is not because we've seen this landscape in other fictions, but maybe in a half-remembered dream. Levine is one of the most interesting writers working in America today, startling and idiosyncratic in the best sense. ----Stephen Beachy, SAN FRANCISCO BAY GUARDIAN
This is a comedy of manners, and there is an inkling of Austen in Levine s delicate and deadpan assault on our culture s heterosexist, heterogeneous dictates. But the feel of the novel is more fanciful than programmatic. Each sentence operates in the same manner as the overarching narrative: shifting shape, defying expectation . . . --Jason McBride, THE BELIEVER