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The narrator of Lynn Steger Strong’s searing second novel fits in with a specific and overdone trope in the landscape of contemporary fiction concerned with womanhood. Elizabeth, a white 30-something mother of two young daughters, lives in Brooklyn with her husband and teaches at a prestigious university in Manhattan. But unlike many other whiny protagonists wrestling with their privilege, Elizabeth is acutely aware of where she stands. Though she grew up wealthy, she is now certainly not. Having just declared bankruptcy, she is struggling to make ends meet while her husband fails to find stable work as a carpenter. Elizabeth is exhausted, overwhelmed and barely hanging on. The unexpected arrival of a childhood friend makes matters more complicated, and forces Elizabeth to reckon with her life choices: How can following such seemingly attainable dreams—of becoming an academic, a good parent and partner—catapult her into such chaos? In detailing the answer, Strong highlights the anxieties of balancing ambition with reality.

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