This literary novella depicts the life of two immigrants living in New York City, struggling with love and relationships. Maxim, originally from Russia, dreams of becoming a rich software mogul while living homeless. Giordana, from Italy, has had some mild successes as an animator in the film industry. When Maxim finds himself with money for rent, he answers Giordana’s add for a roommate. From there, the two find themselves deep in discussion about love, feminism, and their pasts.
Like most literary fiction, The Other Girl focuses on the characters not on plot. The bulk of the book takes place during a long night conversation between Max (old-world machismo) and Gio (modern feminism). The two examine their romantic relationships as Gio attempts to avoid sharing the secret that has come to haunt her. The book begins and ends in the middle of the story, appropriate for a novella and for literary fiction.
Ms. Ares writes with a minimalistic, elegant style that still manages to be edgy. I enjoyed the style and the writing of this book. The words evoked a clear picture and vividly portrayed life on the edge between success and failure. At times crass and crude, Ms. Ares still maintains a lyrical writing style throughout. The characters both held great passion for their lives and loves.
However, I felt it failed as literary fiction, which generally aims to display uncomfortable universal truths through complex character psychology. I found no deep universal truth in this text nor did I find any underlying focus on the human condition. The secrets and dilemmas the characters wrestled with were no deeper than what has been portrayed a million times on popular TV shows. I kept turning the page, looking for those gems of wisdom or truth that I generally find in a literary fiction piece only to be disappointed.
I did not find the characters deep or complex, though that does not mean I did not find them realistic. Gio has a touch of the philosopher but her core is simple. Max, the main point of view character, tended to be almost a caricature for most of the book. All of which would have worked wonderfully with a strong plot; however, the focus on characters only made their lack of true depth too apparent.
Altogether, The Other Girl offered a quick, enjoyable read. Ms. Ares has great talents as a writer but this book just did not rise to the levels expected of the genre (style) chosen.
Sara Drake has been an avid reader since a young age. She has both a Master’s in Mental Health Counseling and a Master’s in History.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Alexandra Ares. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.