Skip to main content

Touch

Review

Touch

Courtney Maum’s TOUCH is one of those rare novels that approaches Big Ideas as well as it does “smaller,” interpersonal ones. In this case, the so-called big idea is our societal dependence on technology at the expense of human interaction (i.e., touch). On a more personal level, the book is an intimate portrait of a woman on the verge of a change that looks very much like a crisis.

Sloane Jacobsen prides herself on always being in control. It’s part of her job, after all; as a sought-after trend forecaster, it wouldn’t do for her to look anything less than confident --- in herself, in her relationships and, most of all, in her predictions --- at all times. She wears a simple “uniform” every day, keeps herself in shape, and maintains a perfectly enviable relationship with her long-term boyfriend Roman Bellard, a French intellectual and self-declared “neosensualist” who has amassed tens of thousands of Instagram followers by posting photos of himself posing around Paris in a Zentai suit (Google it, or just imagine a seamless, colorful second skin made of Lycra).

"TOUCH is an immersive novel, one that carries readers along on Sloane’s difficult and sometimes painful personal journey while also encouraging them to consider their own relationship with the people and devices in their lives."

Sloane is about to take a six-month hiatus from her consulting firm in Paris for a short-term gig in New York working for a long-time acquaintance of hers: Daxter, the CEO of Mammoth Corporation, a tech behemoth whose innovations touch practically every area of life, from beauty products to personal electronics to furniture. The assignment is to prepare some new pitches for an upcoming summit focusing on consumers who have decided never to have children. Who better for this assignment than the determinedly childfree Sloane?

But as Sloane attempts to understand Mammoth and its somewhat stifling corporate culture, to entice creativity from its young (and largely childless) employees, her personal life keeps interceding. She’s living closer to her mother and younger sister (who’s expecting her third child) than she has in a decade; she’s been estranged from them for so long that she doesn’t quite know how to relate to them anymore. And Roman is proving to be more than a little frustrating as well. After announcing the death of penetrative sex in a New York Times op-ed (and it’s true that he and Sloane haven’t had sex in a year and a half), he finds himself at Mammoth, too --- and engaged in an impromptu war with Sloane as they take sides in the debate of “tech” vs. “touch.”

Initially, Sloane may come off as cold and impersonal to readers --- more an exquisitely competent professional than a fully formed, warm and inviting personality. After all, she has no friends other than Roman, and her relationship with her family is strained at best. But as Sloane’s story unfolds and readers learn more about her personal history and her motivations, it’s virtually impossible not to develop sympathy for this vulnerable, flawed character, who wears proficiency like one of Roman’s Zentai suits --- something to hide behind.

TOUCH is an immersive novel, one that carries readers along on Sloane’s difficult and sometimes painful personal journey while also encouraging them to consider their own relationship with the people and devices in their lives. It’s worth mentioning that the book can also be very funny --- walking the line between satire and realism, and introducing readers to one of the most charismatic automobiles since KITT from “Knight Rider.” TOUCH is a novel that readers may find themselves recalling --- perhaps with a flush of embarrassed self-realization --- each time they reach for their cell phones out of habit or boredom. With any luck, it may prompt them to turn to a friend or stranger to discuss the book in person.

Reviewed by Norah Piehl on June 2, 2017

Touch
by Courtney Maum

  • Publication Date: May 30, 2017
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons
  • ISBN-10: 0735212120
  • ISBN-13: 9780735212121