In his debut novel, Rome Prize winner Boast reimagines the myth of Daphne and Apollo as a contemporary romance in which fear of intimacy is further complicated by the digital age's constant stream of numbing stimulation.
We all share [Daphne's] condition to a degree. How often do we retreat behind our headphones and devices to cut out the world—and what are we missing? How are we rewiring ourselves? Not only is it a sensationally captivating narrative, Daphne makes us look at our habits and calibrate.
The resulting novel is...an elegant meditation on modern-day emotion...interested in the ways we handle the unwieldy welter of emotions that defines human existence ('We’re absolutely pickled in it,' Daphne notes), how we protect ourselves from the pain of others and fail to express our own ... At times, owing in part to Boast’s effortless, ridiculously vivid prose, Daphne’s life feels so intense and archetypal (mythic, even?) that it comes off as a heady literary exercise ... But while the crammed last act neatly provides closure for almost every thread in the book, it’s all so artfully tied off that even the most hard-hearted reader will find Boast’s deep awe of 'what it is to feel' catching.
Boast seems to have captured today’s cultural zeitgeist ... Daphne...toughens up by watching a loop of heart-wrenching videos of global disasters and starving children on the internet. It’s difficult to feel compassion for Daphne’s condition given her brutal coping strategies. However, even the best-laid plans are no match for the heart. Daphne meets and falls in love with Ollie ... Their romance provides the novel’s first opportunity for the reader to empathize with Daphne — love and sex are tricky for all of us ... Her plight is universal; risk losing control over one’s own life by embracing human intimacy, or remain in the safe isolation of a hermetically sealed existence.