Author: Jessica Lott
Author: Jessica Lott
Jessica Lott’s novel, The Rest of Us, is a work of literary brilliance. The way she describes a New York apartment makes you feel like you’re standing right next to her in the room, seeing, smelling, and hearing all that she does. The way she explains why the protagonist Terry has given her heart over to her poetry professor, Rhinehart, makes you believe in their connection and root for their love to survive the odds of a May-September affair.
Halfway through the book, I paused to contemplate if I’d gotten it wrong—if this was actually a memoir, not a novel. I had to check the cover again. That is how authentic the writing is.
In just a few sentences, Lott simultaneously reveals an insight into Terry’s personality, Rhinehart’s personality, the relationship between Terry and Rhinehart, and Terry’s physical appearance:
“I drove a rattling Nissan and wore the same pair of maroon corduroys every day—they were split in the left knee, and in the cold, the wind would slip in and deaden the skin. I sort of liked the sensation, but Rhinehart feared frostbite, and bought me thermals I refused to wear, and a bright green beret that he styled perched on the back of my head. I pulled it down, like a droopy cap of a straw mushroom, so that it covered my ears. My ears were a source of embarrassment to me, the way the tips protruded from between the strands of hair, which was a nice brown and long but too straight.”
At first, Terry is more enamored with Rhinehart than he is of her. Of her obsession, she says, “Our relationship bled all over my life.” But later that changed. “When he looked at me his eyes were full of love, and I was shocked to see myself as he did, as beautiful.”
For me, the tragedy in this love story was not in the final ending, but in how Terry handled it on a spiritual level. She tries Buddha chanting. She tries calling out to God, but when she receives no reply, she gets mad at God. It never occurs to her that after she has ignored God all her adult life that He might not owe her an instant miracle. The spiritual darkness is overwhelming, tragic.
There is one sentence that mentions she was brought up in the Presbyterian church. Since she is desperate, why wouldn’t she at least have tried Christianity? There are so many great churches in New York, such as the Brooklyn Tabernacle (she has an apartment in Brooklyn) that are full of spiritual life where people find the “peace that passes all understanding.” Why didn’t her spiritual journey take her to such a place?
I would have liked a
bittersweet ending, an ending with a light in the darkness. But of
course, it is author’s choice. The story ends in darkness on the
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