Writers & Lovers is a life affirming novel about all that can go wrong and all that can go right in one person’s life.
Casey (nee Camila) Peabody is a down on her luck writer, living in a potting shed and working as a waitress at a restaurant near Harvard University called Iris. “I have to eat at the restaurant. I can’t afford more than cereal and noodles.” She is deeply in debt and suffering from a great deal of self-doubt about the novel she has been writing for about six years. Her landlord, Adam, who is also a close friend of her brother Caleb, is dismissive of her efforts to be a novelist, saying “You know I just find it extraordinary that you think you have something to say.” Comments like that do not help!
Casey enters into one bad romantic relationship after another. She meets Luke at an eight week writer’s residency, where they have an intense romantic relationship. Afterward she finds out that Luke is married. Later, at a writers event, she meets Silas and is very attracted to him. He asks her out, only to call back and tell her he is leaving town. And while waiting tables at Iris, she meets the famous author, Oscar Kolton, who is recently widowed with two children. They begin dating and well… (read the novel to see how that turns out).
Casey has fraught family relationships. Her brother Caleb, to whom she is very close, has romantic problems. Casey’s father is a “difficult” character and Casey’s mother left him when Casey was in the ninth grade to be with a man she met at Church. Casey’s mother has died recently while traveling with friends in Chile. Casey is devastated and throughout the book is dealing with her grief. Her mother’s friends brought back a ring that her mother wore and Casey wears it each day.
A lot of the story takes place at Iris, that is until Casey gets fired. The employees at Iris have complicated relationships with each other and the patrons. One day Casey’s father and his wife show up at Iris. Casey’s father lives in Florida most of the year and spends the summers on the Cape. She has not seen him in three years. The “reunion” does not go well, particularly when Casey discovers that her father has an ulterior motive for the visit.
Other parts of the story deal with physical health, writing, writers and gender issues. Casey’s closest friend is Muriel Becker, a very successful writer. Muriel helps Casey with her book and helps her find an agent. She also takes her to certain writers events. She and Muriel share stories of their personal lives and book recommendations. Casey observes that “It’s a particular kind of pleasure, of intimacy, loving a book with someone.” Of course, all readers know this!
Casey is regularly noticing the different expectations and reactions of men and women in various circumstances. One evening she is at a dinner party at Muriel’s house with other writers, one of whom is a woman named Eva Park, who has just won a PEN/Hemingway award for a short story collection. Casey watches her. “All the stuffing seems to have gone out of her…She looks embarrassed, sitting on that stool, to be who she is now. She seems pained by all the compliments Muriel’s colleagues are giving her. Success rests more easily on men.”
And when Casey first meets Oscar, she is aware of how he was sizing her up. “I…think about how you get trained early on as a woman to perceive how others are perceiving you, at the great expense of what you yourself are feeling about them. Sometimes you mix the two up in a terrible tangle that’s hard to unravel.”
Ultimately, Casey gets her life together and the book is sort of uplifting. Lily King is a wonderful, thoughtful writer and this book is no exception. Her language is concise, her characters are alive and relatable and the story is quite a bit of fun. 5 stars! You can reserve this novel at the Cuyahoga County Public Library by clicking here.