Two sisters navigate their tumultuous love lives while dealing with hard news from their eccentric, dog-rescuer mother The narrative of Alice Fantastic is told in first person in part by Alice, a professional gambler from Queens, and her younger sister, Eloise, a toy maker who literally fell into wealth when she walked into an open manhole and successfully sued the city. Their mother, Kimberly, occasionally chimes in with a few chapters of her own.
Click here to see the rest of this review
The first chapter opens with Alice planning to break-up with her "Big Oaf" boyfriend, Clayton. She ultimately takes him to the horse races and tries to get her friend Vito to intimidate Clayton into leaving Alice himself, but the results are disastrous when Clayton overreacts by shoving Vito on the subway tracks, killing him.
The next chapter is led by Eloise, who has just learned that her professional trapezist boyfriend has fallen to his death from the Queensboro bridge. Shortly after Eloise returns from identifying her late lovers body her mother, Kimberly, arrives at her Manhattan apartment. Kimberly has a dog in tow, par for the course for a woman who runs a dog rescue upstate in Woodstock, NY. She hesitantly agrees to take the dog, Turbo, and meets a new love interest, Billy, while out walking him. Though her interest in Billy is immediate, she eventually comes to resent him, regarding him as "Billy Rotten."
The book continues to ping-pong between Alice and Eloise's POVs, as they each spend time sorting out their respective relationships. While spending time with Kimberly in Woodstock Eloise meets an intriguing neighbor, movie star Ava Larkin. An unexpected chemistry develops between the two women, and Eloise is pleasantly surprised when Ava puts the moves on her. The women embark on a romance together that is refreshing and healthy for Eloise.
Alice continues to have a contentious relationship with Clayton, who she is no longer "with" but who is living with her while out on bail for killing Vito. Having only his car to live in Alice takes pity on him and allows him to be her roommate, and pursues a dog rescuer she met named William now that Clayton is no longer her lover. Alice's romance with William is sexual and passionate, unlike her begrudged affections for Clayton.
Kimberly, meanwhile, is taking up with her neighbor, Joe, after having mostly lesbian relationships in the past. Beyond the twist of her newfound heterosexual love interest she is also hiding a hard secret from her daughters - she's dying of cancer. As Kimberly's secret is discovered the family and their various lovers come together to support each other and redefine their relationships and life priorities.
Best part of story, including ending:
The blunt, honestly humorous tone of the shared narrators
Best scene in story:
Eloise and Ava's first kiss evokes a sense of surprise in both the reader and the character of Eloise, who had found herself attracted to Ava but did not believe Ava to be interested in women
Opinion about the main character:
Alice, Eloise and Kimberly are each enjoyable, relatable characters that believably read as family who love each other despite their complicated individual natures