Christine Choe over at Henry Holt and Company was kind enough to send me an ARC of Autobiography of Us, a debut novel by Aria Beth Sloss. Sloss catches the reader from the first line, "She died before her time" and holds their attention with her smooth prose and warmly developed main character, Rebecca. Sloss, through Rebecca's re-telling of her childhood, includes the reader in her story, "You know how girls are at that age. We found each other like two animals recognizing a similar species: noses raised, sniffing, alert" allowing them to feel like a partner in crime.
In upper class 1960's Pasadena both Rebecca and Alexandra are successful young women in their own rights. They excel in the womanly arts; sewing, cooking, dancing and etiquette. But underneath the carefully constructed exterior both young ladies are struggling to become socially acceptable on their own terms. One falls in love with flashy red lipstick, short shorts and the theatre while the other sneaks in and out of the medical building, refusing to admit her true love is medical science and not the sweet redheaded boy down the street.
"She nodded. 'You're like me - you'd take a rat over a jellyfish any day. They're all rats or jellyfish. The trick is finding one who's just rat enough.'"
"We ended up in a part of the city I'd never seen before, somewhere not far from the Golden Gate Bridge. The air when we climbed out of Lana's car was damp and heavy with salt; the breeze was surprisingly strong. I was glad to see the bridge through the fog, it's shape distinct even in the dark. But then I have always loved the sight of bridges - they seem to me to be one of the great miracles of human ingenuity, testament to the kind of vision I attribute to nothing less that true genius. I remember reading once that the architect for the Brooklyn Bridge became paralyzed just before construction began, that he was forced to observe the goings-on from his home in Brooklyn Heights: It seemed exactly right. You would have to be trapped in order to pull something off as magnificent as that, to believe so deeply, with such absolute conviction, in the possibility of such freedom."
One fateful night in the dark changes everything for Rebecca and Alex, and by the end of our story (for Sloss indeed makes it feel like our story too) everything you know of the two of them is turned upside down.
You can get a copy here. And you should.