In the Cut
by Susanna Moore
5 stars - Ew, nasty
This book wound up in my queue either through a reader recommendation or the Sunday book review section. I can't remember which.
First off, a warning. This is very R rated due to graphic sex scenes.
From reading the dust cover, you'd think it was another Looking for Mr. Goodbar type novel.
I did. I was wrong.
The dust cover indicates that one is about to read a story about a New York City teacher, living alone, whose private life deteriorates into a series of dangerous sexual encounters. Sound familiar? Don't be fooled.
What we get instead is something far creepier. The main character (who is never named) narrates a series of events over a short period of time that are primarily disturbing in how matter of fact she is about the mundane as well as the bizarre and upsetting.
Five stars for writing style. I don't know how Ms. Moore did it. What resonated with me is how well she captured the import of things in one's life while simultaneously reminding us that what happens to us, no matter how extraordinary, is really just a day in the life of no matter to the other people who mill around us.
I will try to summarize without revealing too much. The main character is, indeed, a teacher of writing and her passion for words was a bright spot for me. She mulls over what people say, the slang they use, the feeling of words, both good and bad.
Early on in the novel there is a murder in her neighborhood which leads to her meeting police detective Malloy and subsequently forming an "off duty" relationship with him. She is drawn into life in equal parts as observer and participant. Is there a mystery? Yeah, kind of, but that isn't what the book is about. It's about how we are observers in our lives, how we "allow" ourselves to get caught up in things and, primarily, about how it's the small things that happen which combine with the larger events to form a life narration.
Equal dialog is given over to the narrator's contemplation of an accidental touch in a bar as to an assault while walking home. I could relate to that. In my mind, there are big events, but also small things which seem to consume portions of my brain in a manner that makes them the same in their effect on my life and well being.
She stood next to Reilly in the back of the auditorium after the performance, holding his arm tightly. I could see that he despised her. He despised her ceramic brooch. He despised her eagerness to be introduced to what she called his colleagues. When he went off to find Miss Wein, a nearly deranged biology professor, Mrs. Reilly told me that her husband worried that I was handling my students wrong. Handling? I asked. In a matter of seconds I, too, had come to despise her.
The way thoughts form in her mind was very familiar to me.
I tried to find an online review to quote that captured the feel of the book better than I can. I was disappointed. None of the reviews reflected my feelings. Some describe the main character as shallow. She is no such thing. Maybe they thought she was shallow because she doesn't come to conclusions the way they would have liked. Many use the phrase "erotic thriller." Nope. Doesn't work for me either. Sex? Yes. Murder? Yes. But something much more going on here than that.
Anyway, I suspect you will love it or hate it.