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Very Nice

Review

Very Nice

Undergraduate Rachel Klein doesn’t know what she wants to do with her life. She thought she might want to be a writer, especially when her writing sample landed her a competitive spot in a creative writing seminar taught by the renowned novelist Zahid Azzam. However, writing an assignment for the class proved rather difficult --- much more so than seducing her writing professor, which she does at the end of the spring semester.

Zahid doesn’t know what he wants to do next. He’s been coasting on the success of his first novel (and the sizeable advance for his second), but his one-year appointment at a liberal arts college has run out, and he has a serious case of writer’s block. After an awkward sexual encounter with his student, he learns that he has a family emergency back in Pakistan. He is eager to flee the scene but needs to find someone to take care of the poodle he has recently adopted. When Rachel offers to take Princess home with her to Connecticut for the summer, Zahid immediately agrees.

"VERY NICE unfolds gradually, with short chapters that are each told from a different character’s perspective. This narrative technique also effectively illustrates each person’s narcissism and short-sightedness..."

But Zahid finds himself back in the States much sooner than he had planned (or hoped). His subletter --- an up-and-coming financial analyst and the identical twin sister of his writer friend and rival --- isn’t thrilled to have him crashing on her couch (which, in the short term, is actually hers), so on a whim, Zahid decides to take the train to Connecticut to check in on Princess.

There he encounters not only Rachel, who’s there working as a day camp counselor, but also her newly separated (and vivacious and yoga-toned) mother, Becca. It turns out that Becca has been grieving the recent death of her own poodle --- and Princess (not to mention Zahid) seems to have arrived at exactly the right time.

As Zahid and Becca spend the summer swimming and reading companionably, all kinds of tensions begin to rise around them, and soon several characters who don’t know what they want to do next might be forced to decide --- and quickly.

VERY NICE unfolds gradually, with short chapters that are each told from a different character’s perspective. This narrative technique also effectively illustrates each person’s narcissism and short-sightedness, as readers begin to glean their relationships to one another --- connections that are often unknown or unnoticed by the characters themselves. They are largely clueless, self-absorbed, and more than a little angry. Marcy Dermansky’s novel illustrates not only the rage and despair that seethes beneath the surface of people’s everyday lives, but also that we are all dependent on one another --- even if at times we would prefer not to acknowledge those connections.

Reviewed by Norah Piehl on July 3, 2019

Very Nice
by Marcy Dermansky

  • Publication Date: July 2, 2019
  • Genres: Fiction, Humor
  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf
  • ISBN-10: 0525655638
  • ISBN-13: 9780525655633