Rating: 4 / 5
Marcy Dermansky’s Very Nice is the smart, piercingly human story of a young woman, her mother, and the man they’re both infatuated with all living together in picturesque Connecticut for one volatile summer.
Thanks to A.A. Knopf for gifting me this book!
Rachel hooked up with her English professor, after which he went to India for the summer, leaving his Poodle in her care. Home in Connecticut for the summer alone with her mother – whose husband has just left her for a younger woman -, Rachel dreads the three months of boredom she is sure to endure. When her English professor, Zahid, turns up at her house the next week looking for his dog, she’s shocked and ecstatic to see him.
Rachel’s mother, Becca, is equally excited to see Zahid – he is very handsome. She invites the clearly struggling author to stay in their home for the summer, in her husband’s old office. Rachel is eager to continue her relationship with Zahid, but it becomes clear that he isn’t as interested in her as he was during the semester. In fact, it seems like he’s more interested in her mother.
Thus ensues an unexpected summer – of passion for one woman and dejection for the other.
Please take caution while reading Very Nice if any of the following topics may trigger you:
Very Nice is such a sharp, observant novel. The story is at once mundane and totally compelling. It may seem like not much can happen in this sleepy Connecticut town, but with the utter irresponsibility and erratic nature of each character, things can, and do, go awry quite quickly.
Make no mistake, this is a highly character-driven novel. While dramatic events do take place, the star of the show is the character development. Dermansky has a knack for bringing her characters to life through small moments of transparency. They are deeply flawed but also deeply intriguing. They change drastically throughout the novel, which I always find to be quite satisfying.
Darmansky’s writing style is concise – she uses short sentences that, for me, keep the story down to earth and in stark contrast to the wealthy Connecticut town the story is set in. The book immediately gave me Sally Rooney circa Normal People vibes, so if you loved that writing style I think you’ll also enjoy Dermansky’s, which is arguably more digestible.
All in all, Very Nice is an honest, character-forward story of a very unwanted love triangle, a deeply dysfunctional family, and a summer that is anything but picturesque. I very much enjoyed getting to know these odd characters. Also, the ending is just awesome.
Thanks so much for taking the time to read my thoughts on Very Nice. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the novel in the comments or at my Instagram, @bookmarkedbya!