Behind anonymous screens, an army of cool and beautiful girls manage the dating service Ghost Lover, a forwarding system for text messages that promises to spare you the anguish of trying to stay composed while communicating with your crush. At a star-studded political fundraiser in a Los Angeles mansion, a trio of women compete to win the heart of the slick guest of honor. In a tense hospital waiting room, an inseparable pair of hard-partying friends crash into life's responsibilities, but the magic of their glory days comes alive again at the moment they least expect it. In these nine stories Lisa Taddeo brings to life the fever of obsession, the blindness of love, and the mania of grief.
Viral success has emboldened [Taddeo] to abandon everything patient and methodical in her investigation of women’s darker appetites in favour of the literary equivalent of chasing clicks ... Ghost Lover is a nine-course tasting menu that is all spice and no flavour ... The main dish is always the same facile serving of female jealousy. In every effortfully flippant tale, self-conscious women compete to be the most desirable female in the room ... At least the proper nouns denote actual things. When Taddeo attempts metaphor, we run into more serious trouble ... Throughout, Taddeo rams words together in unexpected ways. 'His voice turned throaty, filled with wetness and trees.' Trees? ... Perhaps Taddeo has read Lolita and feels excited about experimenting with the English language. Only it feels more as if she has done the experimenting in another tongue, Finnish or Swahili, perhaps, then run a series of untranslatable local sayings through Google Translate ... In the course of producing this Goop noir, Taddeo has abandoned any interest in women as complex, conflicted humans. Her characters are myopically focused on blow-dries, blow jobs and brow tints ... Inspires depression.
These nine stories of sex and trauma tread a fine line between self-parody and self-awareness ... Taddeo’s anti-heroines may feel a little adolescent at times, but they are as desperate as they are self-obsessed and petulant. I did find myself rolling my eyes at the author’s more experimental sentences ... When not overwriting, Taddeo can deliver turns of phrase so perfect they feel like they’ve been on the tip of your tongue for ever ... Taddeo’s characters are such bundles of daddy issues and self-hatred as to verge on cartoonish. But it is lazy – not to mention reductive – to read characters who are venomous and vapid, and dismiss their author in kind ... While Taddeo’s characters often embody the antithesis of mainstream feminist consensus – terrified of ageing, striving for male approval at the expense of other women – they offer an honest picture of how it feels to move through the world as a woman. And what could be more feminist than that?
It’s difficult to find here the loving, nurturing female friendships that most real women hold dear ... The stories will chime, albeit uneasily, with those who have had bruising encounters with disingenuous, exploitative men and fremenies ... These are devastating stories of women’s pain, loss and compensatory behaviour. Taddeo is the 21st century’s more excoriating Edna O’Brien.