January 8th 2019: Looker by Laura Sims

Disclaimer: An advanced copy of this book was provided to me in exchange for my honest review. Looker by Laura Sims will be released on January 8th, 2019 by Simon & Schuster.

From the first page of Looker I knew I was hooked.

DSC_8231.jpg

I was tentative to pick it up at first because I’ve come to resent how many domestic thrillers are on every bookshelf in every book store. I didn’t feel like wasting my time on a story that was just like all the others out there.

To cut to the chase: Looker is absolutely NOT a thriller. I’m not quite sure why it’s been marketed that way, as it undermines the complex and quite intellectual nature of the story, as well as the strong writing from Laura Sims.

Looker, set in New York City, is told from the perspective of an unnamed middle-aged narrator. She has recently separated from her husband after years of unsuccessfully trying to have a child, and has become increasingly isolated, only interacting with the students she teaches once a week in a poetry class and a single female friend whom she doesn’t particularly like. Her self-hatred and slowly devolving mental state have led to a fixation on a famous actress who lives down the street. Her increasingly erratic behaviour puts her - and other around her - in uncomfortable and sometimes dangerous situations.

The real strength of Looker is that the world is shown only through the eyes of the unnamed narrator. Because of her mental state, it is hard to know which of her observations are true and which are delusions. The book, which is quite short, features many sharp - sometimes even witty - commentaries from the narrator, who in particular seems to despise her ex-husband and the other women who live on her street (aside from the actress). As her behaviour builds to a breaking point, it’s hard to know if she’s even aware of what she’s doing.

Although I found Looker to be quite original, there are definitely a few other novels I would compare it to. It reminded me of The Girl On The Train because of the untrustworthy narrator, and of My Year of Rest and Relaxation (read my review here) because of the narrator’s apathy for the world around her.

This novel isn’t necessarily pleasant. It’s sad to read about a character’s slow downfall, but also very interesting to learn her backstory and the traumatic events that have led to her current predicament. The ending of Looker wraps things up nicely, but also leaves enough of a cliffhanger that you’ll be wishing for more.

Laura Sims, a published poet and reviewer, has produced an incredible debut novel with Looker. The book even sparked a bidding war between publishers. Her mastery of the written word is obvious, and her ability to craft a complex storyline is clear. I look forward to reading more from her in the coming years.