Behind anonymous screens, an army of cool and beautiful girls manage the dating service Ghost Lover, a forwarding system for text messages that promises to spare you the anguish of trying to stay composed while communicating with your crush. At a star-studded political fundraiser in a Los Angeles mansion, a trio of women compete to win the heart of the slick guest of honor. In a tense hospital waiting room, an inseparable pair of hard-partying friends crash into life’s responsibilities, but the magic of their glory days comes alive again at the moment they least expect it.
In these nine riveting stories—which include two Pushcart Prize winners and a finalist for the National Magazine Award—Lisa Taddeo brings to life the fever of obsession, the blindness of love, and the mania of grief. Featuring Taddeo’s arresting prose that continues to thrill her legions of fans, Ghost Lover dares you to look away.
***Thanks to NetGalley and Avid Reader Press for an eARC of this book. The following review is my honest reflection on the text provided.
Because I enjoy creating more work for myself, I’ve done a mini review for each short story. It helps me rate the collection as a whole, though, so off we go!
Ghost Lover ★★.5 ABUSE | ROMANCE | SOCIAL MEDIA | WEIGHT
This is a controversial, difficult story. Ari is choosing to tell her truth in a very dishonest way which has profound repercussions outside her own life. She is heartbroken, amplifying this side of her that seems capable of being cold and calculated in emotional situations. By choosing herself and her fame over another’s reputation, she’s clearly not a heroic character. Unfortunately realistic, but not inspirational. She’s pretty unlikeable from the first few paragraphs, but it seems to become a competition to see how much worse she can get in a short story. This first story is not one I would have expected from the author of Three Women, but it was a captivating read. I can’t complain about the writing skill or style, just the content. It makes me a little worried about what’s to come, though…
Forty-Two ★★★ ROMANCE | WOMEN’S FICTION
The two women in this narrative could not be more different – Joan is a cyclone of toxic thoughts and manipulative, self-serving plans, while Molly is naive but selfless and conscientious of her life and its realities. Joan is in love with Jack for what he is on the surface, while Molly may be using him for what he represents – husband/father/future – and she protects that vision. Neither is very happy; they both seem to have an idea of what they want but are approaching it in (probably) the wrong way. I didn’t like Joan, but I liked how it twisted around full circle in the end. Emotionally evocative writing, but another slightly toxic narrative.
The day of a wedding is always about three people. The groom, the bride, and the person most unrequitedly in love with the groom or the bride.
Beautiful People ★★★ ROMANCE | SOCIAL MEDIA
Almost a modern fairy tale, though the motivations behind most characters’ actions are far from pure. The emotions drive this story – Jane is very much in her head, and while this is probably the least toxic story so far, it’s not a happy ending – or very feminist – even if it’s very realistic.
★★★.5 ADDICTION | GHOSTS | INFIDELITY
This is a sad one. I don’t have a lot of sympathy for Miranda – chasing excitement and freedom and missing the stability and security. The grass is always greener and all that nonsense. I mostly felt bad for the narrator. We hear the worst parts of her story secondhand, making it even worse. Difficult choices and difficult situations.
You can sense your own mortality more in the presence of someone who has found a new bead on life.
Grace Magorian ★★.5 ABUSE | FAMILY | SOCIAL MEDIA
Another sad older woman, bitter about love and the world, becomes delusional when someone shows the slightest interest. This feels like recycled material from several previous stories, and I didn’t particularly enjoy it.
Air Supply ★★.5 FRIENDSHIP
Really focused on the male gaze – the only real details in the story are about the men checking out these women. A lot of stuff is glazed over, making the story feel pointless. It’s hard to tell whether they’re terrible or excellent friends. Still, I think it’s clear Sara is a better friend than the narrator deserves considering how much time she spends competing with Sara, trying to figure out who is prettier or getting more attention. It might be an honest depiction of a specific type of friendship, but it’s a very strange one.
Maid Marian ★★★ INFIDELITY | ROMANCE
Unrequited love and poor decisions. I don’t have much to say about this one; it was a bit boring – a slightly nasty twist in the end, but nothing unexpected.
American Girl ★★.5 ROMANCE
The same story, a slightly different spin. Shallow people, ambition outweighing truth, fame more important than humanity. It reads as limited or reductive at the very least – these characters are boiled down to their base instincts and have no complexity, leaving them (and the story) quite dull.
A Suburban Weekend ★★★.5 FRIENDSHIP | MENTAL ILLNESS
Strong finish. A complicated female friendship – with competition, awkwardness, and misplaced emotions – but a strong relationship nonetheless. Liv has everything except love, while Fern has lost everything but doesn’t care anymore. Disposable men, too many drinks, offhand comments, and imperfect characters.
Overall: ★★★ (rounded up)
This collection made me want to read Three Women again as a reminder that I do like Taddeo’s writing. I think it would be a good comparison – fiction vs non-fiction, each comprised of short stories in their own way. I’ll have to move it up my TBR before I’ve forgotten this pretty forgettable book.