I love this book. I’ve read it several times.
The story alternates between her time at work as a law clerk in a large corporate law firm and her time amongst her friends. Even as she avoids attention, people are drawn to her.
She has insomnia. She works hard, is conscientious and moves up the ladder in spite of her inclinations, even while other clerks and lawyers are being fired. As the story moves on, Frances moves from one person’s idiosyncratic life to the next. She ends up working for the leading bankruptcy partner, an alcoholic called Castonguay who lives in a hotel room next to the office. At home, she shares her flat with Vickie a spacey actress who drinks a lot and is always behind on the rent, relying on the ever-sensible Franny to bail her out. And yet Frances just keep moving forward, trying her hardest, always feeling like she is not doing the right thing, and yet Vickie loves her–and keeps in touch even when she gets a part in a cable TV show and moves to LA–Castonguay realises what he has and keeps promoting her, and finally, Peter, who just keeps hanging around, gets Frances to pay attention to him.
For many of the employers at the law firm, work defines them. The same goes for the actress Vickie. But Peter, a builder of “other people’s dream homes” doesn’t let his work define him. By the end of the novel, Frances realises that her work does define her, she has made something for herself, and she gets home that night, and Peter is waiting on the doorstep and she hugs him.
Lin’s drawing style draws out a gentle humanity in all the characters including the ones he is satirizing. This is a special talent. He makes fun of the actress who can’t live in the real world and the lawyer who only thinks about his work, and yet, like Frances he sees what is warm in them. The indoor spaces and the buildings of the cityscape of Toronto are there in the scenes where we need them and just suggested or absent at other times. The fact that Frances falls in love with a gentle sensitive builder is perhaps what happens to us as readers of this engaging, humanizing work of art.
“I’m just a law clerk. I barely figure in the pecking order. The weird thing is I think I’m pretty good at it.”
Read this now. Buy a copy, so that you can share it with your friends.