Martin and Lily have a life that many would envy—they share an expensive New York apartment with their twin toddlers, sample the delicacies of Manhattan's finest restaurants, and take Caribbean vacations. But when the couple's nanny announces her imminent departure, they panic: how will they ever find a replacement capable of managing their spirited boys? Enter Maeve, a young Irish émigré. Neither of them imagines how indispensable she will become, either to the household or to their marriage.
Things unspool in ways both predictable and unexpected ... [The characters] are unlikable, Toma wants us to know, but in a muted, unflashy way ... The novel gestures at social satire but never really cracks a smile, falling into an uneasy spot between arch realism and allegory that may occasionally leave readers wondering whether a stereotype is being critiqued or simply reinforced ... This is a slippery, hypnotic and aggravating book. It is often beautifully written...and Toma is astute in his depictions of human foibles ... But it is freighted with obfuscating symbolism ... At times the novel cries out for a lighter touch ... Ultimately, this novel about the sexual problems and spiritual malaise of the au-pair-having rich feels as if it is trying to say something big about sex, class, masculinity and modern life. It’s a daring effort and a worthwhile pursuit but, harried pandemic mom that I am, I was mostly too tired to care.
Riveting ... Toma is excellent at looking intensely below the superficial and the unspoken...and his lucid style and cool tone add power to the story. The twists and turns of this contemporary morality play will have readers engrossed.
The unlikability of the central couple is precisely the point, as the novel questions how much substance there is to their lives, yet the narrative fails to find any momentum in this question and is instead weighed down by numerous lengthy flashbacks to Martin’s and Lily’s lives prior to meeting as well as Martin’s musings during bouts of insomnia ... Sadly, none of these characters become fully realized, and neither does the impetus of the plot ... A story and a main character both in search of meaning.