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The Answers

By: Catherine Lacey

Publisher: Macmillan Trade

Imprint: FSG

Format: Hardcover | ISBN: 9780374100261

Other Formats:

Electronic | Audio | Trade Paperback

On Sale: | Pages: 304

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In Catherine Lacey's ambitious second novel we are introduced to Mary, a young woman living in New York City struggling with a body that has betrayed her. All but paralyzed with pain, Mary seeks relief from a New Age-y treatment called Pneuma Adaptive Kinesthesia, PAKing for short. And, remarkably, it works. But PAKing is expensive and Mary is broke. So she scours Craigslist for fast-cash jobs and finds the "Girlfriend Experiment," the brainchild of an eccentric and narcissistic actor determined to find the perfect relationship--even if it means paying women to fill different roles. Mary is hired as the "emotional girlfriend"--certainly better than the "anger girlfriend" or the "maternal girlfriend"--and is pulled into an ego-driven and messy attempt at human connection.Told in Lacey's signature spiraling prose, The Answers is full of singular yet universal insights. It is a gorgeous hybrid of the plot- and idea-driven novel that will leave you reeling.
Mary is the central character of Catherine Lacey's second novel, which has the effortless sparkle and speed of something written by an author with a dozen novels behind her instead of just one. It is funny and eerie and idea-dense — a flavor combination that turns out to be addictive..... This is a breathtaking leap to witness, and a promising trajectory to follow. On the basis of “The Answers,” I'd read anything Catherine Lacey tried her hand at: science fiction, a screenplay, an epic poem...hell, a limerick. And as many novels as she possibly could.
—New York Times
“How to best love? How to know anything, for certain, in another's heart?” These are the questions posed by the Girlfriend Experiment, and ostensibly answered in the most logical way possible. But logic only goes so far, as Mary's story, and others, illustrates. At times, THE ANSWERS can leave readers feeling chilly, but it also offers numerous opportunities for reflection on modern culture, the limits of science and the mysteries of love.
Such an inventive setup isn't merely an excuse for Lacey to show off her considerable inventiveness. It also allows her to dig into some fertile philosophical ground, raising questions to which the novel, against its title and like all good art, offers no final answers... All too often books with a killer premise languish at the level of the sentence, where great fiction really lives. “The Answers" succeeds at this level, too.... Love is a strange, strange thing, and so is the self. No one in contemporary fiction does a better job of showing us these facts than Catherine Lacey.
—Boston Globe
Reading Lacey's fiction feels like walking through a dark apartment in someone's mind, full of winding hallways and unmarked doors. You never know quite where you are or where you'll end up.... “The Answers” is propelled by a surprisingly compelling puzzle of a plot involving the Girlfriend Experiment and the way it manipulates its subjects — but plot is just one of the novel's many pleasures.... In a book called “The Answers,” Catherine Lacey leaves us with a ravishing list of questions.
—Los Angeles Times
When an author's debut is a voice-driven first-person novel, there's an expectation, just or not, that her second novel will be wider in scope, more “ambitious.” In many ways, Lacey's new novel, “The Answers,” fits that bill. At the very least, it demonstrates that Lacey is capable of ventriloquizing well beyond the quirky-insightful voice of “Nobody is Ever Missing.”... With so many story lines, it's almost inevitable that not all are resolved by book's end.... Instead of seeming like a clever subversion of narrative expectations, this non-resolution resolution feels like a missed opportunity. Lacey is an extremely talented writer, but “The Answers” is a little less than the sum of its many excellent parts.
—Washington Post
“The Answers” is in part a sparkling satire of our era of big data, sending up the all-too-believable idea that, by optimizing human emotions, technology can be put to use “solving love.” But the novel is also a poignant spiritual lament, deepening the themes of Ms. Lacey's excellent debut, “Nobody Is Ever Missing” (2014), about a woman who flees her marriage for an aimless and increasingly desperate trip across New Zealand.... one of the most ingenious novels of 2017 but also one of the most moving.
—Wall Street Journal
Lacey's sentences are long and clean and unstanchable. They glow like the artist Dan Flavin's fluorescent light tubes. In her new novel, “The Answers,” she sweeps you up in the formidable current of her thought, and then she drops you down the rabbit hole. She's the real thing, and in “The Answers” she takes full command of her powers.... This is a novel of intellect and amplitude that deepens as it moves forward, until you feel prickling awe at how much mental territory unfolds.
—New York Times
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