Allison Brody is 32 and newly arrived on the East Coast after just managing to flee her movie producer boyfriend. She has some money, saved up from years of writing and waitressing, and so she spends it, buying a small house on the beach. But then a Category 3 hurricane makes landfall and scatters her home up and down the shore, leaving Allison adrift.
The novel surprises us by blending visceral horror with laugh-out-loud humor. This unnerving stylistic collision is sustained throughout ... Dermansky plays masterfully with perspective: Are the people around Allison... all they seem? Should we be wary of Allison’s judgment, or has physical trauma somehow bestowed acute mental clarity? Either way, the results are hilarious. Dermansky’s offbeat humor and spare prose make Allison’s mind a thrilling and wholly unusual place to be ... This is a wickedly entertaining read from first to last.
Rather than convince the reader of a character’s particularities via an exhaustive inventory of details and memories, Dermansky is a master of that slippery thing we might call voice. She conjures rather than describes. Instead of turning the lens of the novel on Allison, she embeds us in Allison’s consciousness until the shape of Allison’s thoughts becomes our own. In this way, Dermansky creates an experience in fiction that is powerfully and unnervingly realistic. How often do I ask myself how I am feeling, what I am thinking, or what I remember that is the key to my buried trauma? ... Allison either wants or does not want, there is no in between. But the span of time between Allison wanting and Allison doing is short. She is a character who does not know what she will want tomorrow or even five minutes from now, but once she knows, she acts. The result is a narrative that lives in a precise kind of now, that feels like the active unfolding of a consciousness. In this way, Dermansky achieves what it really feels like to be a person rather than its literary simulation ... What makes this book so funny? One answer is simple pleasure and delight, as in the elements that make up this novel are almost universally delightful ... dialogue, of which Dermansky is one of my favorite living practitioners, calling to mind the sonic truth of Grace Paley and the delicious weirdness of George Saunders (Paley’s student) ... Dermansky packs a great deal of dramatic action into Hurricane Girl, without straining credulity or sliding into melodrama. She has a particular talent for wedging the mundane and/or logistic up against Big Events ... There is a sense that Allison is profoundly alienated from herself and in some ways uninterested in making her life into any kind of coherent story, which is a fascinating choice for the protagonist of a story to make ... Allison’s story is a powerful comedic indictment and investigation of the darkness of American millennial life, where literally nothing we were told to want is stable, not even a house, let alone a home. The book seems to ask the question: What is a life, a personality, a body, when none of the systems underpinning the things we were taught to want are working the way they should and everything is crumbling?
Readers hungry for a novel that's equal parts sweet and sour will find plenty of sugar and vinegar in Hurricane Girl ... Some characters are caricatures rather than fully fleshed-out creations, but readers will enjoy Dermansky's humorous one-liners and deceptively light touch. And they will sympathize with Allison, a woman tired of the way men treat her and who fights her inclination to go through life like a swimmer in the ocean: floating aimlessly, drifting wherever the waves take her.