9780670032136 / 0670032131

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About the book:

Meghan Daum's first book, the essay collection My Misspent Youth, was written with effortless humor and excoriating insight. This was a writer who made fun of everything, most especially herself. Humor and self-knowledge infuse her debut novel, The Quality of Life Report. Fans of Daum's essays probably know that her unworkable, expensive New York lifestyle led her to move to the Midwest. Same goes for the fictional Lucinda Trout, a New York TV producer who, while on assignment, falls in love with the town of Prairie City. Daum, with typical acuity, is wise to her character's real motivations for moving to the country: she wants to be a better person, and believes the Midwest will do the trick: "This was, after all, serious country. The real heartland, the plains. It was Willa Cather-novel serious. It was Sissy Spacek-movie serious and documentary-film-about-poor-conditions-in-meat-packing-plants-serious." Lucinda soon discovers that she's not immune to the less-than-perfect aspects of Prairie City living, and acquires a boyfriend of questionable hygiene and judgement; a rambling, isolated farmhouse that looks like the set to a Sam Shepard movie but is impossible to heat; and a tanning-bed tan and a set of false nails that are the region's signature style. The plot of the novel unwinds rather messily, and Daum doesn't always seem in control of her material. But she never lets Lucinda off the hook, and that's the key to the book's success. Daum has given her heroine a voice that is prickly, a little ruthless, and lovably vulnerable all at once. We don't always respect Lucinda, but we're pretty sure we'd be friends with her. --Claire Dederer

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