A coming-of-age novel set in New York City, about the joys of unexpected life-altering friendships, the power of finding ourselves in the moment, and the importance of forgiving ourselves when we inevitably mess everything up.
This warm and witty book traces a tangled path of female friendship and creative work ... Like Colwin, Kois focuses on intimate conversations and atmospheric details. There are literary and pop-culture references throughout the book, but they aren’t out of proportion with the plot and the book’s emotional heart ... Balanced against the backdrop of East Village gentrification and Lucy’s bittersweet posthumous revival, Kois’s storytelling is both breezy and insightful. Where he shines brightest is in scenes between friends ... It is joyful and comforting to read a novel with loving, complicated characters who aren’t defeated by life — despite many reasons they could be.
Kois not only brings a certain lightness to decades that are as full of loss and angst as they are of discovery and triumph; he reminds us that darkness and light always coexist ... Which brings me to my one problem with this novel: too much coexisting. Kois toggles among so many different scenes and characters that I sometimes wished he had made some more of his own hard choices ... Vintage Contemporaries is crammed a bit too full of plot, not unlike the cramped city it documents. Fortunately, it’s also overstuffed with bittersweet beauty, not unlike the vintage contemporaries of Laurie Colwin.
While their relationship and its more fraught aspects over the years are a big part of the novel — and could likely have sustained a book on its own — there’s more to the story ... Not every subplot clicks into place perfectly: Em’s dealing with structural inequality in the publishing industry doesn’t have the same force as the clashes with mortality, addiction and the Giuliani administration that arise elsewhere. But the cumulative effect of these disparate threads is considerable; it’s a novel that is both an argument about art and a compelling example of it.