It is not easy to write a review for a book like “The Answers”, however I shall try. The book essentially is about love, it is also about dealing with life, mental disorder, some more life, and how is it possible to live in isolation and still love? The book questions – at every step – about relationships, love, friendships and technology. But don’t be fooled in getting answers to how to live. “The Answers” by Catherine Lacey is a primer for our times – where we constantly yearn for love, but perhaps want it pre-programmed for us, so the investment is minimal.
Mary needs a change. In fact, she needs a new life. She is burdened by debt, works at a travel agency – a job she doesn’t particularly like, seems agonized by multiple ailments and just needs a change. Her best friend, Chandra recommends she finish a course of Pneuma Adaptive Kinesthesia (PAKing) which helps her get rid of the physical ailments. However, the course is expensive and Mary has to think of another way to make more money to be able to afford this.
The second job comes in the form of playing an “emotional girlfriend” amongst several other girlfriends (anger girlfriend, IT girlfriend, redundant girlfriend, etc) to a Hollywood actor/director in the name of a research project to gauge how these women would react and behave given the certain need they would fulfill for that star. The project is called GX – The Girlfriend Experiment and of course that forms the crux of the story. What makes it more exciting (so to speak) is that Mary has never heard of this film star, so she is the only one who can approach him neutrally. How come she hasn’t heard of this star? That is because she was homeschooled by her parents and escaped to live with her aunt Clara, ending up in New York. This in a nutshell is the plot of the book.
A book like that needs a deft emotional hand and Lacey’s writing proves that no one could have written this book better. Jumping from first and third-person narratives, the book tries to encompass almost everyone’s point of view and that is the only time I thought it felt kinda short but got up right back due to the nature of love and its treatment. At first, it does take some time to warm up to Mary but when you do; you can actually hear her thoughts in your head long after you have finished the book. The writing is taut and at no point I felt that the book could do with some more editing. The Girlfriend Experiment project is scarily real and could easily be a possibility where you are told how to love and you make money instead of loving with all your heart and the way you feel becomes artificial.
“The Answers” is a take on modern love. I think I can say that. It is also a meditation on the nature of loss, acceptance and above all whether or not we need to define ourselves by the constructs laid out by the society in order to live or not. At the end of the day, this book will leave you with more questions but it is worth it every step of the way.