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The Rest of Us


The Rest of Us

Jessica Lott is a debut novelist (she has published a novella, OSIN, but this is her first full-length work) whose THE REST OF US is set in the New York City art world. In addition to providing a fascinating insight into artistic lives and relationships, Lott's novel also plays with and subverts some overplayed fictional tropes, resulting in a story that feels fresh and consistently surprising.

Terry is a thirty-something single woman who is making ends meet as a portrait photographer's assistant, trying to forget that she once had aspirations --- and talent --- to become a serious artistic photographer. As the book opens, she reads an obituary for Rudolf Rhinehart, a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, and the news of his death hits her unexpectedly hard. It turns out that Rhinehart was a professor at Terry's college and the love of her life. When the two of them were together while Terry was an undergraduate, both of them also underwent a creative surge, resulting in some of their best artistic work. Terry hasn't seen Rhinehart since she left college, so why is she so devastated by news of his death?

"THE REST OF US is a quiet novel, one whose emotional impact and thematic richness build gradually but is no less powerful for that."

As it turns out, however, the obituary was published prematurely, as Terry discovers when she runs into Rhinehart a few days later. Seeing him revives her interest, and the two begin a tentative friendship, complicated by Rhinehart's involved and contentious relationship with his wife. Rhinehart encourages Terry's resurgent interest in serious photography; meanwhile, this man who hasn't published a new poem in years is pouring all his energies into researching his Ukrainian genealogy.

While Rhinehart travels to Ukraine, Terry begins an awkward but potentially beneficial friendship with his wife, an art collector, even as she longs to start her own romantic relationship with Rhinehart himself. She is on the verge of two second chances --- at love and at a career --- and desires more than anything to do it right this time.

THE REST OF US offers readers a number of interesting perspectives, including an insider's view of the New York City art scene as well as a heartfelt tribute to New York itself. It's also an unapologetically feminist portrait of a young female artist struggling to make her way. Most compelling, though, is what Lott does with some tired old fictional stereotypes. Here Rhinehart becomes Terry's muse during their second act, not the other way around. And Lott also portrays an unusually equitable and mutually beneficial May-December romance, one that will unexpectedly touch and inspire readers. THE REST OF US is a quiet novel, one whose emotional impact and thematic richness build gradually but is no less powerful for that.

Reviewed by Norah Piehl on July 19, 2013

The Rest of Us
by Jessica Lott

  • Publication Date: July 29, 2014
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • ISBN-10: 1451645880
  • ISBN-13: 9781451645880