In 2016, Deschutes Public Library chose Lily King’s breakout novel, “Euphoria,” as the Novel Idea county read. Together, the county dove deep into an anthropological exploration of the New Zealand, a love triangle and danger deep in the jungle and rainforest. With its distinctive rainbow barked colored and slightly tacky book cover, “Euphoria” left me and much of Deschutes County a fan of Lily King.
King’s newest novel, “Writers & Lovers,” is set in a slightly more familiar setting yet still distant from Oregon — Boston AKA Beantown — and is inhabited by an interesting cast of writers, service workers, college kids and geese.
Casey is in the familiar early 30s struggle. Attempting to write a novel, balancing a job waitressing at a local lunch spot, and working to avoid being kicked-out of the small mother-in-laws shed she lives in (the type of building and situation that so many 30-somethings find themselves in in Bend).
On top of the familiar crush of failure that often haunts those who didn’t immediately make good when they leave college are the lovers mentioned in the title. Why do some people work out while others burnout or just ignore you once you give them your heart? Casey doesn’t know and has hard time, like most of us, going back to bat once she spectacularly strikes out.
Of course, a novel titled “Writers & Lovers” wouldn’t be complete without a love triangle, and there is one — a man Casey’s age vs an older mature writer with a cult local following and several adorable children. Casey’s battle with relationships is as much about her internal struggle and growth as it is about the “choice” between two interested men.
The biggest heartbreak of all is the death of Casey’s mother — an absence that haunts Casey, and one that she feels as she rides her banana bike to work every afternoon passing locations that remind her of her mother.
Can Casey make good? The world seems to be crumbling around her as anxiety, abandonment, and life presses down on her while somehow she desperately tries to get her writing out into the world.
Lily King breathes life into each of our characters and scenes. King’s writing sparkles in the many scenes where Casey is dealing with life at the restaurant. Having worked a little in food service I felt like I’d worked with Casey. The jerk manager, the tech bros, and the angry brunch cooked — I half expected Anthony Bordaine to appear and take charge.
In Casey’s world there is a spark of light and hope at the end of the tunnel. King’s beautiful short prose draw you into Casey’s life and make you pray that she will fight — for her relationships, job (well, maybe not her current job), mother’s memory, and a place to live that isn’t a mother-in-law shed.
Pick up Lily King’s latest novel, “Writers & Lovers,” today at your Deschutes Public Library as an eBook, audiobook, physical book, from Hoopla, or at one of our fine local booksellers like Herringbone Books.
“Writers & Lovers” by Lily King
Grove Press (March 3, 2020)