With a debilitating but undiagnosable illness and mounting debt, a young woman takes a job as an Emotional Girlfriend in a “Girlfriend Experiment”?the brainchild of a wealthy and infamous actor who has hired a team of biotech researchers to solve the problem of how to build and maintain the perfect romantic relationship.
Catherine Lacey’s second novel has the effortless sparkle and speed of something written by an author with a dozen novels behind her instead of just one. It is funny and eerie and idea-dense — a flavor combination that turns out to be addictive ... Kurt, as you may have guessed, is a certain kind of male idiot: too frivolous to be despicable, too self-aware to be blameless. It takes a skilled writer to summon such an individual in detail without dehumanizing him. It also takes a skilled writer to make Mary, saddled with the curse of being young and sick, as compelling as she is ... This is a breathtaking leap to witness, and a promising trajectory to follow. On the basis of The Answers, I’d read anything Catherine Lacey tried her hand at.
The genius of Catherine Lacey lies in the fact that her new book, The Answers, doesn’t feel like too much; the pieces are bizarre and timely and fit together like puzzle pieces into a somehow timeless examination of humanity ... Lacey’s prose radiates elegance beneath its unassuming, unflashy surface; there’s nary a maladroit word or an unrevealing detail. She skillfully balances a truly absurd array of hot-button topics and weird narrative twists, playing them off each other virtuosically to weave a surreal-feeling story with deeply pragmatic concerns ... The Answers offers no answers, of course. Instead, in its stark portraits of bewildered, alienated people, it lays bare the unresolvable paradoxes of need that we all hold in our hearts.
Lacey’s sentences are long and clean and unstanchable. They glow like the artist Dan Flavin’s fluorescent light tubes. In her new novel, The Answers, she sweeps you up in the formidable current of her thought, and then she drops you down the rabbit hole. She’s the real thing, and in The Answers she takes full command of her powers ... This is a novel of intellect and amplitude that deepens as it moves forward, until you feel prickling awe at how much mental territory unfolds ... it’s a neuronovel that floods with tangled human feeling. Like Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, it’s also a novel about a subjugated woman, in this case not to a totalitarian theocracy but to subtler forces its heroine is only beginning to understand and fears she is complicit with ... It comes to be a meditation on fame and art as well as love. A suspension of disbelief will sometimes be required. Lacey makes you happy to submit. She casts a spell.