b2s pick: Young Frances by Hartley Lin

young-frances.jpgBOOKS 2 SCREEN PICK

Young Frances by Hartley Lin (2018, Adhouse Books)

Summary: After insomniac law clerk Frances Scarland is recruited by her firm’s most notorious senior partner, she seems poised for serious advancement—whether she wants it or not. But when her impulsive best friend Vickie decides to move to the opposite coast for an acting role, Frances’ confusing existence starts to implode… An intimate study of work chaos and close friendships over time. Quarter-life crisis is too dramatic a characterization of Frances’s story. But she can’t sleep, and she has arrived at a point in life where she craves “that thing that everyone else seems to have … that lets them dive into the world with grace.” Young Frances takes a subtle, true look at the strangeness of adulthood, as Lin’s protagonist discovers that her day-to-day might eventually become her whole life.

Notes: The story follows the daily life of Frances, a 20-something law clerk navigating a period of personal insecurities and surprising career advancement. Assigned to assist Marcel Castonguay, the mysterious Head of Bankruptcies, Frances is thrown into the center of her firm’s office politics and finds herself unable to avoid the combative, exhausting, and sometimes bizarre demands of her job. She is forced to reconsider her life (“No one in history ever wanted to be a great law clerk”). Vickie, her best friend meanwhile, leaves for L.A. after getting the lead role in a trashy TV show about lawyers.

Using the women’s professions as a stage, Lin mines their long-distance phone calls and text messages (and the cutthroat office politics of the firm) to define the nature of their friendship. It is able to capture the emotional bonds and clumsy charm of two friends who will always have each other’s backs. It has a bit of Walter Mitty charm, but the seriousness of Me Without You. Lin delves into the sometime’s crippling emotions around following though when a door opens, in this case Frances’s promotion, when really it may be closing the door on other paths we might have taken.



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