Isabelle, a woman in her thirties without any of the trappings of a grown-up life, has just been fired from her job at a San Francisco phone company. Returning to the midwestern suburb of her childhood, Standardsville, Illinois, she contends with her dating single mother, a neighbor who once appeared on The Honeymooners, and an ex-boyfriend. She also becomes a mystery shopper for a temp agency, posing as a variety of potential tenants for newly built suburban communities to access their exclusive services.
Enchanted by the possiblities of disguise, Isabelle spins a web of lies that keeps the world at a distance until she unearths long-kept secrets that force her to rethink everything she thought she knew.
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Maud Casey stories have appeared in The Threepenny Review, Prairie Schooner, The Gettysburg Review, and elsewhere. Casey received her B.A. from Wesleyan University and her M.F.A. in fiction from the University of Arizona. She lives in Washington, DC and teaches in the MFA program at the University of Maryland.From Publishers Weekly:
Striving for humor and poignancy, but never quite achieving either, this first novel finds 33-year-old Isabelle living at home with her mother in the dull Midwestern suburb of her youth. The by-now familiar setup of sexy single mom and cynical product-of-the-'70s offspring presents ample opportunity for Casey to lampoon the trappings of contemporary existence among them dating services, office jobs and highway psychics and to bend her lead character's casual observations into meditations on life so far. After a failed attempt to find a more glamorous existence in San Francisco, Isabelle retreats to Standardsville, Ill., a land of strip malls and cul-de-sacs, and signs on with a rather dubious temp agency. Her overzealous temp agent and peeping-tom neighbor join the cast of quirky characters sketched in broad strokes. Several coincidental encounters and sudden shifts in plot prevent the book from taking itself too seriously, but also keep it from being believable as a portrait of American suburbia. Rarely does Casey's satire dig much deeper than assigning silly names to places of business (Temporama, Let's Pet, En Queso Emergency, etc.), and when the author attempts to build emotional tension, she relies on the inherent pathos of suicide and failed dreams rather than on any real feeling for her characters. With no apparent connection to the 1933 H.G. Wells novel of the same name, and no new insights into contemporary loserdom, this novel is too heavily laden with its own absurdities to say much about those outside its confines; its greatest appeal lies in Isabelle's earnest search for meaning. Agent, Alice Tasman, Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency. 4-city author tour.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
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