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All Fours

by Miranda July

Publishers Weekly In the hilarious, sexy, and wonderfully weird latest from July (The First Bad Man), a 40-something artist tries to reinvent herself while reckoning with middle age. The unnamed narrator’s choice to drive instead of fly from Los Angeles to New York City for a two-week writing retreat stems from a desire to “follow beauty,” as her libidinous lesbian friend encourages her to do. In this tenderhearted mode, the narrator barely makes it beyond the city limits before checking into a Monrovia, Calif., motel. The initial draw is a boyish 31-year-old named Davey, whom she first encounters at a gas station where he squeegees her windshield. She also becomes strangely attached to her room, and hires Davey’s decorator wife, Claire, to sink thousands of dollars into a luxe rehab job. While Claire works, the narrator makes regular calls to her husband, Harris, telling him about various fictitious stops on her abandoned itinerary. After the two weeks are up, the narrator returns home, although the Monrovia motel room turns out to play a central role in her attempt to find fulfilment as she faces menopause and mortality. July lightens those weighty themes with a steady supply of bizarre erotic interludes and offbeat one-liners (“False modesty is one of those things that’s hard to go easy on, like squirting whipped cream from a can,” the narrator acknowledges, after telling a stranger she’s “kind of a public figure”). This is a revelation. Agent: Sarah Chalfant, Wylie Agency. (May)

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Library Journal This second novel by filmmaker July, following The First Bad Man, centers on a unnamed 45-year-old woman, a semi-famous artist married to a man with whom she has one child. At the outset, this everywoman has planned a solo road trip to NYC from her home in Los Angeles. However, she only gets as far as Monrovia, CA—about 20 miles away from home—before stopping. She proceeds to rent a room in a roadside motel and then sets about not only renovating the room but also reinventing herself. Her localized adventure features a growing attachment to Davey, a younger man whose wife also happens to be the decorator of the protagonist's motel room. The protagonist's relentless self-awareness pushes her to question the conventionality of marriage, to explore her queerness, lust, and sexuality, and to examine whether the expected paths laid out for middle-aged women are the only paths. VERDICT While the protagonist's self-obsessions and erotic escapades won't be to everyone's liking, July's novel is a quirky, funny, even tender feminist tale that defies expectations about the lives women can lead.—Faye A. Chadwell

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Book list Determined to become the sort of person who would do such a thing, a 45-year-old artist (she's "only a little famous") attempts to drive from L.A. to New York. She makes it a few towns from home before pausing at a motel, and the next morning decides to renovate room 321 in the fashion of an unforgettable Parisian hotel room. For check-ins with her husband and child, she keeps up the farce, pretending she's every place she planned to be on the three-week round trip. The problem is Davey, an aspiring dancer who works at the local Hertz and admires the artist's work, and with whom she—it's not possible!—falls in love. She goes home, lugging some complicated new feelings, and this is just the start of July's first novel since The First Bad Man (2015), a brilliant, sexy, funny, ludicrously entertaining primal scream of a coming-of-middle-age story. The protagonist stretches and shape-shifts, puzzling over the moving target of her future, and finds herself in a wilderness. Safe spaces, though, don't come much safer than now-exquisite room 321, her cocoon one night per week as she and her husband rework their marriage and she finds new rootedness in her art, sex, and self. Beyond-dazzling, eyes-wide-open fiction.

From Booklist, Copyright American Library Association. Used with permission.

Kirkus A woman set to embark on a cross-country road trip instead drives to a nearby motel and becomes obsessed with a local man. According to Harris, the husband of the narrator of July’s novel, everyone in life is either a Parker or a Driver. “Drivers,” Harris says, “are able to maintain awareness and engagement even when life is boring.” The narrator knows she’s a Parker, someone who needs “a discrete task that seems impossible, something…for which they might receive applause.” For the narrator, a “semi-famous” bisexual woman in her mid-40s living in Los Angeles, this task is her art; it’s only by haphazard chance that she’s fallen into a traditional straight marriage and motherhood. When the narrator needs to be in New York for work, she decides on a solo road trip as a way of forcing herself to be more of a metaphorical Driver. She makes it all of 30 minutes when, for reasons she doesn’t quite understand, she pulls over in Monrovia. After encountering a man who wipes her windows at a gas station and then chats with her at the local diner, she checks in to a motel, where she begins an all-consuming intimacy with him. For the first time in her life, she feels truly present. But she can only pretend to travel so long before she must go home and figure out how to live the rest of a life that she—that any woman in midlife—has no map for. July’s novel is a characteristically witty, startlingly intimate take on Dante’s “In the middle of life’s journey, I found myself in a dark wood”—if the dark wood were the WebMD site for menopause and a cheap room at the Excelsior Motel. This tender, strange treatise on getting out from the “prefab structures” of a conventional life is quintessentially July. Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.