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Allison Johnson (usually referred to here as ‘the girl’) as desperately in need of escape from her current life. Pregnant, stuck in an abusive relationship with boyfriend Jimmy and heavily dependent on alcohol, she decides to move away from Las Vegas to Reno to make a fresh start. As is always the way though, she carries her demons with her.

This book charts Allison’s life in Reno, from a detached, third-person point of view. It follows her as she decides what to do with her baby, finds work as a waitress, strikes up tentative friendships, and unfortunately, continues to drink heavily and end up in dangerous situations with unpleasant men. In her darkest hours, she imagines conversations with her favourite film star Paul Newman, and these conversations help her through.

As I always do when I finish any book, I looked for reviews of this online, and the vast majority I read were hugely positive. I really wanted to like this book – and there are lots of positives about it. The short abrupt chapters and eloquent writing meant that I flew through chunks of it really quickly and I thought it captured the late night smoky atmosphere of Reno pretty well (although I’ve never actually been there, ha!)….but the aforementioned detachment, and the very spare style of writing meant that I never engaged with any of the characters, because I never felt that they were fully fleshed out. And it is just so depressing and exhausting to read!! Just when I thought things were going to turn around for Allison, she screws it up again.

Although it’s a quick read, it doesn’t exactly flow like a novel, and often felt more like a series of vignettes from Allison’s life with a connecting theme running through them. I love Paul Newman, but I also didn’t see the point of her imaginary conversations with him.

So all in all, perhaps this was not the book for me. I can see why some people enjoyed it, but by the end of it, my main feeling was relief that it was finished.

 

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