Title: Very Nice
Author: Marcy Dermansky
Date published: July 2, 2019
CW: gun violence, sexual abuse
A brilliantly funny novel of money, sex, race, and bad behavior in the post-Obama era, featuring a wealthy Connecticut divorcée, her college-age daughter, and the famous American novelist who is seduced by them both.
Rachel Klein never meant to kiss her creative writing professor, but with his long eyelashes, his silky hair, and the sad, beautiful life he laid bare on Twitter, she does, and the kiss is very nice. Zahid Azzam never planned to become a houseguest in his student’s sprawling Connecticut home, but with the sparkling swimming pool, the endless supply of Whole Foods strawberries, and Rachel’s beautiful mother, he does, and the home is very nice. Becca Klein never thought she’d have a love affair so soon after her divorce, but when her daughter’s professor walks into her home, bringing with him an apricot standard poodle named Princess, she does, and the affair is…a very bad idea. In a darkly hilarious novel that zigzags between the rarified circles of Manhattan investment banking, the achingly self-serious MFA programs of the Midwest, and the private bedrooms of Connecticut, Marcy Dermansky has written an audacious, addictive, and wickedly smart take on the way we live now.
It’s been a month since I read this book, and I am still angry. Angry at myself for falling for a pretty cover that had raised parts that felt cool. Angry at myself for trying to read a literary adult novel when I know that’s not my thing. Angry at all the stupid people in this book. Angry at publishing for calling it “brilliantly funny.” I mean honestly…if you think this book is funny, you need to take a look at your sense of humor, because personally, all I could see was how disturbing this book was.
This review will contain spoilers, so if you want to read a book about a bunch of horrible, selfish, messed up af people and weird sex, stop reading this rant review now. Honestly, it’s mostly me ranting because I’m still so upset about this book.
I should have known this book would not be for me when it literally said right in the summary that it involves an affair between a teacher and student. I do not do teacher-student sex or relationships, even when the student is 19 and the teacher is 36. There is an imbalance of power. Period. He didn’t even KNOW HER NAME because he’s horrible.
Then, this asshole basically moves in with his student who he’s slept with and her mother, and then falls for her mother, for some bizarre reason. Becca, the student’s (whose name is Rachel, for future reference) mother, is probably one of the only somewhat redeemable characters. She’s just been through a divorce with Rachel’s father, and she just does not relate to her daughter or understand her at all. She’s lonely, so I can’t really fault her for falling for a hot writer staying at her house.
Rachel is also horrible. She’s borderline sociopathic, which is something that Becca lets the reader in on very early on. There’s this whole bit where she explores some sort of weird relationship with this guy who is the brother of the boy who threatened to shoot her mother’s class, which in itself it super questionable even though it’s because she is somewhat close to the little sister, who goes to the camp where Rachel is a counselor. But omfg, it was super disturbing and uncomfortable to hear about Rachel’s weird, somewhat maybe attraction to the brother, and then the sex between them is SUPER disturbing and fucked up. As I said, all the sex in this book is weird.
There’s also a random character who is the twin sister of the writer staying in Rachel and Becca’s house’s best friend. That sentence made no sense. She’s a minor character, and she’s in love with her former baby sitter, who is later revealed to have molested the minor character as a child. Apparently, the baby sitter has been to therapy about being a molester, but still has a lingering relationship with this person she molested who clearly has no idea it was wrong and it’s super disturbing and all of these people are just the worst.
Aside from the characters, the writing style got super repetitive. She writes. In these little. Small. Sentences that at first seem cool and crisp and interesting, but she writes that way for all of the perspectives, of which there are about five. So she writes the same voice for at least five characters, which is not the mark of a “brilliant” or “wickedly smart” writer, as the synopsis claims. Also, can I just point out that even the synopsis is poorly written, because it’s not even correct? At no point is the writer “seduced” by BOTH Becca and Rachel; he sleeps with Rachel once, and immediately moves on to her apparently hot mom.
I will point out that there was one okay character in this book, and that was the dog. The writer staying at Becca and Rachel’s house has this dog, which is the original reason he ends up at the house, because he gave it to Rachel to look after while he was in Pakistan. The dog’s name is Princess, and she is an apricot poodle, and she immediately falls in love with Becca, and honestly, the only good thing to come out of this book was that Princess ends up staying with Becca.
The rest of this book? Utter. Garbage. Everyone in this story is so horrible and it is not funny and the sex is weird and I’m still really angry that I read all the way to the end of this book. Also that I bought it and it now sits on my boyfriend’s bookshelf, because he is still somehow vaguely interested in reading it.
This will probably be the first and last time that I try to branch out and read adult literary fiction, because if this is what adult literary fiction is, it is WEIRD AF and I want no part of it.
Thank you for coming to my TED Rant.