Laura Zigman
New York: Knopf, 2002. Pp. 210. US $22.00 CAN $33.00

Reviewed by Nora Foster Stovel

Laura Zigman's novel HER is the latest in the recent rash of intelligent and amusing fictions by New York journalists and editors, beginning with Melissa Bank's witty and wry The Girl's Guide to Hunting and Fishing (2000) and followed by Lucinda Rosenfeld's What She Saw (2000). Not as deft as the first nor as colorful as the second, Her is nevertheless a good readif you're into obsessive attitudes, neurotic personality, and self-destructive behavior.

Elise, Zigman's protagonist and narrator, has just made a major life change. Giving up a reasonably successful career in publishing, she has recently moved from New York to Washington, D.C., to pursue graduate work in education with a view to becoming a teacher. In order to make ends meet, she continues to editfree-lance and at homefor her former boss. Editing From Fat to Fit makes for some amusing copy and also lends this slight narrative some metafictional layering. Flying back from a meeting with her editor in New York, Elise meets an ostentatiously eligible man, with just enough neuroses of his own to make him credible, who has, coincidentally, made the same move. Despite her neuroses about flying and her rudeness, Donald decides to follow up the connection, and they begin to date. Soon they are setting the dateApril 15, the date, it turns out, of Donald's previous wedding day.

Enter HER, Donald's ex-fiancée, AdrienneFrench, not Québecoisean art historian with a degree from Yale and cleavage to burnwho announces that she is moving from New York to Washington, D.C., to take up a post at the National Gallery. Her devotion to Lucy, the dog to which Donald won custody, brings the former lovers together. Enter the Evil Twins, jealousy and suspicion, Elise's Mephistophelian advisors, who prompt her to search Donald's voice mail and e-mail while he sleeps, as what Donald calls her "Quartet of Jewish Gloom and Doom" (24) assumes control. The driving force of this novel is the narrator's ever-increasing obsession with Adrienne, as her suspicions that the ex-fiancée has designs on her old fiancée grow to absurd proportions. The amusement lies in the lengths to which this obsession drives her, literally, as she takes to circling Adrienne's block several times a day to see if Donald's car is out in front and calling on her ditzy friends Gayle and Fran (the saleswoman from hell) as advisors and allies. The interest lies in observing her determinedly self-destructive behavior, as she imagines how her New York therapist, Dr. Frond, would interpret her obsession.

Ironies abound, as the author pits her protagonist's vision of love"Love is a mirage, an inkblot, subject to position, mood, interpretation. Relative, changeable, unstable, it can appearor disappearat any moment" (205)against her fiancée's"Love, to him, was not a mirage or an inkblot; it was not relative, changeable, unstable" (205). Read Her and see who winsif you're curious.