In this taut and thrilling debut, an unraveling woman, unhappily childless and recently separated, becomes fixated on her neighbor—the actress. The unnamed narrator can’t help noticing with wry irony that, though she and the actress live just a few doors apart, a chasm of professional success and personal fulfillment lies between them. The actress, a celebrity with her face on the side of every bus, shares a gleaming brownstone with her handsome husband and their three adorable children, while the narrator, working in a dead-end job, lives in a run-down, three-story walk-up with her ex-husband’s cat.

Looker is a case study at its core, a novel that hones in on motherhood, infertility, and the concept of “having it all.” Our female narrator is unnamed; her husband has left her and she has had zero luck conceiving a child. After her husband leaves, her life unwinds thread by thread and her obsession with the actress who lives next door grows into dangerous territory. Her job is threatened at work, and now her husband is calling, demanding she return the cat he left behind.

The base concept of this novel is one that we’ve all heard before–a woman alone slowly goes crazy. The added twist here is the obsession with the actress, but even that element is not too enticing. I found myself morbidly reading this novel. The narrator is unlikeable in many ways, and while I was comfortable with her narrative voice, I found the woman’s actions and behavior to be so embarrassing that I read with a permanent cringe on my face.

There was nothing inherently wrong with the book; however, it was very short yet it still seemed too long. The concept felt like a perfect idea for a short story. The fact that it stretched into a novel–technically a novella–signifies the struggle to turn an interesting idea into a fleshed-out plot. Needless to say, the novel is short, so it works well as something to pick up if you’re in the mood for a cozy psychological suspense and you don’t have a lot of time to commit to a larger book.

I enjoyed the fact that I wasn’t sure how to feel about the narrator for the majority of the book. Was she a victim of her circumstances being forced into the trope of the crazy ex-wife, or was she actually coming unhinged and it was my job as the reader to spot the moments of delusion? What’s more, I think it may be a combination of both at work. I also enjoyed the ending. I won’t spoil it, but Sims easily could have gone overdramatic, and I think the ending she chose was very tame in comparison to other possible endings.

The cat though . . . worst part, by far.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

PUBLICATION DEETS: Scribner, January 8, 2019, 180 pages

CATEGORIES: character case study, psychological

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