Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Based Upon Availability by Alix Strauss
In Based Upon Availability, Alix Strauss explores the inner life and longings of women through the lives of several New York City young professionals. Each has the sense that they just can't get what they really want and need, and most are isolated and lonely, seeking relationships with others in order to feel more connected.
The main character is Morgan, who works at the Four Seasons Hotel. She has never gotten over the death of her sister as a child, and still views events through that loss. She has broken up with her longtime boyfriend and now picks up men for quick sex when she feels especially unconnected.
The other women can also be defined by what is most missing from their lives. Trish has started a gallery but feels her best friend slipping away as she prepares for marriage. Anne also works at the hotel and is obsessive-compulsive as she fights to feel in control of her world. Sheila is a teacher who longs for a man and marriage. Robin longs for her sister to love her as she loves, but is constantly thwarted by her coldness. Ellen is desparate to have a baby. Franny has moved to the city and builds a life, but doesn't feel she is connected to anyone. Louise is an aging rock star, staying in the hotel to detox.
Alix Strauss has done a masterful job in constructing this novel. The book is laid out in a series of life stories, each chapter following one of these women at a point in time. There are recurring characters such as several men that more than one of the women interact with over time, not knowing that others also have a relationship with them. Some of the characters meet each other and develop friendships, while others have a passing acquaintanceship. The lonliness of each woman is portrayed through their struggles to find what they need, and the reader is compelled to examine their own lives to determine what needs drive them. This book is recommended for all readers interested in the human condition and the ways we seek to establish connections.