Catalina: A Novel by Liska Jacobs

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I’m thinking, Who is this Elsa? Her name is so sterile and dead. It’s not me.

Elsa Fisher is a controlled disaster, her forbidden affair with her boss has reached it’s bitter end. She has been fired from her job at MoMA as executive assistant to the talented Eric Reindheart, what else to do but return home to Los Angeles and party with her friends, sail to Catalina and slowly self-destruct? With pills, booze, young hot guys, anything to keep reality at a distance, but as she sinks, she may will bring her friends down with her. She uses men along the way, young and old, high off her mother’s stolen pills. “He’s young and breakable and it would feel so goddamn good to break something.”  Bitter, jaded, with her stale heart- she just can’t get out of her own way.

Her college friend’s lives have moved along, even her ex-husband Robby has a girlfriend, Jane- who seems so much lovelier than she did when they first met in New York. Jane, athletic, upbeat, just the perfect little package for her ex. The sort of woman that will glow in the intense focus Robby has to give any woman in his life. In the mix again, the men desire her. Her ex-husband Robby can’t seem to let go, always slipping back into an intimacy he should be long past.  Questioning why things ended, jealous of male attention she receives, as if he still has that right. She almost enjoys the misery, the attention it garners from Robby. It’s hard to like Elsa, tangled so tightly in her own mess of a life, blind to the needs of her friends. Charly , her best friend, has been trying for children with her husband Jared. Jared is an over-grown flirt, at times adoring of his wifey Charly and others insensitive, but Elsa doesn’t see everything clearly, she is too wrapped up in her own victim mentality. With her bite, her vicious wit, her untouchable conscious she seems to only bring back destruction to the group. Telling her friends this trip is about a well needed vacation from her fast paced New York life, hiding the truth about her affair and being fired, sleeping with men, tossing back pills and booze, leading Charly astray, slowly the friends have to wonder- just why did she come back?

Her past is surfacing through her dreams, and in hazy painful memories of how she betrayed each of her friends in different ways, particularly when her beauty became ripe. She is remembering her father’s decline, the love she couldn’t muster for her first love Robby, every titillating moment she spent with Eric, her boss at MoMA. Tom has the boat the friends will all travel to Catalina on, a client of Jared’s, wealthy, smug and who has his eyes on Elsa, far more perceptive than any of her friends. He recognizes exactly what she is, exposing her hypocrisy, her needs, her cruelty and weaknesses. Before the trip is over, she will set off events that change each bond she has with her friends. Charly wants her best friend back so badly, possibly at her own detriment. Elsa’s heart is sour, she is a source of poison, and is too boozed soaked and self absorbed to see it. Rather than humbling herself, confiding in her friends, she pretends to be happy, carefree, and cynical. By the end of the trip, everyone will be changed, some will lose something vital to their future happiness, but will Elsa remained untouched by the damage she has birthed?

Publication Date: November 7, 2017

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

 

 

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