In a debut novel of subtlety and incompleteness...McFarlane lushly describes Anne Marie's interior life and struggles ... The narrative is replete with brooding description and a sense of studied ennui. A detachment from a real sense of place causes a feeling of floating through amorphous existence. Recommended for fans of the indeterminate.
... the characters and their situation became almost entirely static, even to the point of repeating the same conversations ... Predictably, they come to no real conclusions. Readers might have a similarly ambivalent experience. Nothing we learn about Anne Marie’s past reveals anything that might fundamentally change our understanding of the narrative present, still less how the story will progress in the future. Anne Marie clearly suffers her personal history as a burden, an anchor that keeps her from advancing in life. The question is whether it also becomes a burden on the novel, trapping it between a past we already know and a future that seems not to matter, freezing the characters so they can’t evolve. It’s telling that the novel ends almost exactly as it starts: with Anne Marie on the phone to her cousin, Tricia. Sometimes the highway doesn’t take you all that far.
... [a] dreamy if tepid debut ... Anne Marie’s character remains frustratingly oblique. Vague memories emerge of Anne Marie’s troubled relationship with her mother, who died when Anne Marie was 15, rendering her protagonist’s hard-knock life through painful flashes that contribute to the mood but fail to illuminate. Though the novel aptly captures the characters’ sense of aimlessness, it loses its own way.
... it's hard not to feel that McFarlane’s talent might have been better served by taking more time to incubate. The novel suffers from the anxiety of influence: McFarlane's very serious young characters feel not like members of Gen Z but instead transplants from the 20th-century American novels by which she has clearly been inspired. And though she refers to solar power and cellphones, she bypasses practical realities of life in the 21st century, including politics and social media, rendering this novel curiously inert. A limited first effort from an author to watch.