Tuesday, July 3, 2018

"Alternative Remedies for Loss"

Joanna Cantor is the author of the novel Alternative Remedies for Loss. She holds an MFA from Brooklyn College and a BA from Colorado College, and is a recipient of the Vermont Studio Center Fellowship. She lives in Brooklyn, NY.

Cantor applied the Page 69 Test to Alternative Remedies for Loss and reported the following:
From page 69:
get a feel for what was out there. She showed Olivia pictures and they huddled over her phone, blurring the line between themselves and the young patrons at the next table.

OLIVIA AND MICHEL fell into a sort of routine. It wasn’t the kind where he took her to dinner. But she could rummage in his cabinets and find things to eat while he looked on with mild amusement. There was always champagne, and when they didn’t finish the bottle, he threw it away. Mornings, he drank French press coffee with almond milk, too fatless and bitter for her. While he showered, she stole the guest chocolate from above the kitchen sink. And then he’d come out of the bathroom with toothpaste breath and call her Lady Godiva and they’d fuck again—on the couch, on the floor, once with her hip pressed into the counter so hard she had a bruise for ten days. He loved the bruise. The next time he saw her, he couldn’t stop touching it. He pushed his thumb into it while he fucked her, even when she winced. He watched her face, waiting for her to tell him to stop, which she didn’t, and he came early, with the look of a child having an accident.

They saw each other a couple of times a week, always at his place. One evening in early November—the days so short that by the time Olivia left work it felt like it had been night for as long as it had been day—Michel said he had presents for her. He’d ordered a bunch of lingerie online, or not exactly lingerie: a couple of lacy thongs, a camisole because he didn’t know her bra size, and several pairs of metallic leggings. Apparently he had a thing for leggings.

Olivia modeled the thongs in the living room to instrumental jazz. Michel fiddled with the stereo, reaching out to stroke her hip. “Perfect ass,” he murmured appreciatively, as though he’d designed it himself. She stuck it out for him and then turned to face
My debut novel Alternative Remedies for Loss is the story of 22-year-old Olivia Harris in the year after her mother’s death. After a disastrous family trip to India, Olivia moves to New York City and gets a job at a media company. Months later, a discovery about her mom leads her back to India, this time to visit a yoga ashram.

Page 69 does not refer to the most central part of the novel—the loss of Olivia’s mother, which has left her reeling. But this page does capture one major strand of Alternative Remedies for Loss: the ill-advised but exciting romantic fling. Olivia’s relationship with Michel, an older man she meets through work, may not be the best idea, but there’s a lightness and playfulness to it at the beginning (as there often can be in the early stages of a relationship, even if the wiser part of us knows we’re making a mistake).

The mood of novelty and energy that show up on this page are not just about Michel; they’re also about Olivia’s first months in New York. It was important to me while writing this book that the themes of loss and grief not become too heavy because, while they are true to Olivia’s experience, she’s also young: it’s a time of many firsts, and she is capable of being distracted and getting swept up in her new city life.
Visit Joanna Cantor's website.

--Marshal Zeringue