Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

In 'Days of Awe,' Novelist Lauren Fox Finds Wit in Losses

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

In 'Days of Awe,' Novelist Lauren Fox Finds Wit in Losses

Article excerpt

A novel by Lauren Fox

Published by Knopf, 272 pages, $24.95

Like that lethal dude Liam Neeson plays in the movies, novelist Lauren Fox ("Still Life With Husband," "Friends Like Us") has honed a very particular set of skills.

She takes women who are falling apart and pulls wit, snark, pith, and occasional insight out of them. No contemporary novelist makes me stop as often to mark or admire one of her sentences. Plenty of people can write limpid or fancy prose, but Fox ladles out one flavorful reduction of human angst and misery after another.

The possible line of inspirational coffee mugs derived from her new novel, "Days of Awe," will include such perky thoughts as "You can't preserve anything; every happy moment is already on its way to becoming nostalgia" and "Death smashes a crater into your life, and you're left alone to sort through the rubble."

"Days of Awe" draws its title from the period of the solemn introspection urged upon Jews between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, though Fox's narrator, Isabel Applebaum Moore, also experiences gentler moments of wonder and appreciation.

Occasionally, her novel makes me think, perhaps incongruously, of Ford Madox Ford's "The Good Soldier," another sad story of two couples falling apart.

The novel opens at the funeral of Josie, Isabel's fellow middle- school teacher, who died in a late-night car crash. "She would always be my wild, grieving, huge-hearted, selfish, confident, insecure, extravagant best friend," Isabel tells us.

Moving backward and forward, Isabel recounts the history of their friendship while unraveling the skein of events and decisions that led to her death. Josie had been married to Mark, Isabel's childhood buddy and Hebrew school classmate; Izzy and her husband, the gentle gentile Chris, often hung out with them. The more outgoing Josie seizes Isabel as a BFF on the day they meet, bonding over inanities at a faculty meeting; readers will detect, almost immediately, edgy and manic notes in her behavior. …

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