A novel about a wife and mother whose life is unraveling and the well-intentioned but increasingly disastrous steps she takes to course-correct her relationships, her career, and her belief in herself.
The light from Laura Zigman’s new novel is generated by a kind of literary nuclear fusion: an intense compression of grief and humor. The combination of those elements usually produces cynical black comedy, something witty and bitter, but Zigman’s work is too tender for that ... Zigman digs into the self-confirming nature of depression with the authenticity of someone who’s been hounded by that black dog. But the sorrow here is always twined with comedy ... [a] deliciously absurd tone runs straight through this novel ... what keeps Separation Anxiety from spinning off into some surreal parallel universe of silliness is Zigman’s attention to the ordinary absurdities of middle-class life. She has a great humorist’s eye for the comedy we’ve seen but overlooked...She’s particularly witty about the vapidity of our self-help culture ... Perhaps the most admirable aspect of Separation Anxiety is the way Zigman subtly choreographs the novel’s apparently random goofiness ... Stalked by the loneliness of middle age, you may think the last thing you need is a novel about a woman driven to wearing her dog. You’d be wrong.
What is the name of the emotion that mixes exasperation with sympathy? This was the question going through my head as I read Separation Anxiety, Laura Zigman’s wistful and somewhat erratic fifth novel. The story of Judy Vogel, a middle-aged writer, mother and wife consumed with loneliness as her husband and son drift away, it is a tale that elicits a curious combination of those feelings ... It is unclear why otherwise passive people have decided to get divorced since they seem to like each other and are kind. This dynamic, at least, is fresh; you root for Zigman’s decent and vulnerable characters even while wanting to give them a good shake ... Zigman has brought her ur-self firmly into middle age — and while she is a familiar, self-deprecating, likable protagonist with self-esteem issues, one does find oneself wondering why, with the supposed vantage point of some years, she hasn’t yet gotten out from under the weight of her own judgment.
In this intriguing novel, Laura Zigman doesn’t sugarcoat but instead lays bare Judy’s feelings with heartbreaking honesty. Every middle-aged woman who has ever felt invisible, lost or depressed will connect with some aspect of Judy’s life. Indeed, Zigman labels her work 'semi-autobiographical fiction,' which may explain its devastating authenticity. At the same time, Zigman cleverly wraps her story in genuine hilarity. Judy’s continuous, cynical commentary is priceless, especially when discussing Teddy’s Montessori school ...What at first might seem like a depressing premise is in fact both refreshingly truthful and highly entertaining. As a result of this unique mix, this novel is both unpredictable and delightfully original. For those seeking a good laugh and a good cry, look no further than Separation Anxiety.