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Lives Come Undone in The Clasp

Oct 08, 2015

Sloane Crosley's The Clasp tells the story of a group of college friends who all meet again, on the brink of 30, at a wedding in Florida. "It was disquieting," a guest thinks, "seeing all these names from his past in calligraphy, as if they were passengers on the Titanic." It's a good line and also a deft piece of foreshadowing. Icebergs ahead.

Crosley is best known for her comic essays, some of which were collected in I Was Told There'd Be Cake, but her gifts--keen observation, mordant humor, an affinity for the bittersweet--translate surprisingly seamlessly into fiction. The principal characters in The Clasp are Kezia (clever, single, jewelry designer), Nathaniel (clever, single, feckless, screenwriter) and Victor (clever, feckless, unemployed, in love with Kezia). Reunited, with little to show for the years in between, they dust off old crushes and chat and riff off one another with a marvelous lightness and a quickness that stands in poignant contrast to the heavy slowness with which they grope their way through life.

The clasp of the title is, on its most literal level, that of a necklace, or in fact several necklaces. One is a priceless treasure lost by a wealthy family, and midway through the book the plot pivots from social comedy to a pleasantly caperish quest to recover it. Another is Guy de Maupassant's "The Necklace," a famously devastating story of lives wasted beyond redemption. That story becomes a motif in Crosley's sad, hopeful, endlessly entertaining book--it comes up again and again, like a blinking lighthouse, warning us off the shoals of life, reminding us that there are losses that cannot be charmed or joked away.

--Lev Grossman

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