Kate Christensen’s “Trouble”

trouble1[1]Kate Christensen chose a fine title for her novel about a middle-aged woman going through midlife crisis. Trouble, it’s called, and man, is it about trouble. Brooding trouble, boiling trouble, pending trouble…

The story opens with a scene at a party, where Josie, a 45-year-old psychiatrist, flirts with one of the guests (a hot, sharp-tongued guy), and she suddenly realizes that her marriage of fifteen years is over. Just like that!

How does it happen, though, so out of the blue? Well, during her chat with this hot guy, Josie happens to catch sight of her own reflection in a big mirror on the wall across the room and she is fascinated by that stylish, willowy woman. Surprisingly, being a shrink, it doesn’t occur to her to compare herself with the mythological Narcissus. What does occur to her is that, at forty-five, she’s still a very attractive woman. And it also occurs to her that her husband doesn’t acknowledge or even notice it. In fact, he hasn’t “noticed” her as a woman for quite a few years now, his main priorities being work and reading. Is his decision to stay at home with a book tonight, rather than join her at this party, not enough proof of his total indifference to her? So her decision will be to divorce him. She owes it to that woman in the mirror.

And now Josie faces a challenge to find herself, to find who she’s going to be from now on. So off she goes on a quest. She doesn’t wait till “tomorrow,” no. She launches into her adventure right after the party–by having sex with a stranger in a bar. (How’s that for a psychotherapist?)

Josie’s two best friends are her college friends—Indrani and Raquel—and they have also failed at personal happiness. Indrani, although with a successful teaching career at Columbia, was dumped by her cheating boyfriend and is now single and lonely. Raquel, a rock star, is being vilified by the media for sleeping with a much younger man. However, whereas Indrani criticizes Josie for quitting her marriage, Raquel fully supports Josie’s decision and invites her to Mexico where she’s hiding from bloodthirsty paparazzi and annoying fans. The two friends reunite and go on a romp, engaging in excessive eating, drinking, and partying.

Raquel confesses to Josie, “All my life, I’ve felt like I had it going on. Even in my worst junkie days, I was still young enough to make a fresh start; I knew I’d get through. I don’t know… I’m not feeling that way anymore. I feel like it’s over. I do. The game is over for me, and I lost.” 230

Well, Raquel is suicidal, so it’s understandable that she feels this way. But her sense of loss resonates with Josie’s failure—at least at this point. Will Josie turn her life around and find happiness? You’ll have to read the book and see.

Trouble is a sharp take on marriage and friendship, loyalty and love. It’s a quest for finding your own self that you used to be when young.

Kate Christensen is a gifted writer, whose description has a movielike quality. I, an animal lover, had to skip (which I never do) the bullfighting scene–it was so graphic.

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