Promising Young Women
This “novel” is devastating because it doesn’t read at all like a novel… Someone in my life has endured many of the same travails as Lizzie, our “fictional” protagonist, and it may be the paradox of fiction, but I cannot, and will not, believe that the author was not describing her own experiences to construct this story. Life has always been, and always will be, more dramatic than fiction. Please read this.—Recommended by Jeff
A series of fragmentary tales tells the story of Lizzie, a young woman who, in her early twenties, unexpectedly embarks on a journey through psychiatric institutions, a journey that will end up lasting many years. With echoes of Sylvia Plath, and against a cultural backdrop that includes Shakespeare, Woody Allen, and Heathers, Suzanne Scanlon’s first novel is both a deeply moving account of a life of crisis and a brilliantly original work of art.
“Suzanne Scanlon enters the inverted space of grief and near-madness with courage, intelligence, and wit—and with a small, sharp light for us to follow.”—Dawn Raffel
“About ten lives occur in this very short novel. One swiftly becomes the background of the next, then that one looms up fast and for a moment you think oh this is the life. And it is ending. I like the swift consciousness with which Suzanne Scanlon orchestrates all of it and even more I admire the true (and maneuvered) intimacy that holds me here on the page despite the fact that inside and out of this volume of Promising Young Women there are so many of us, lives, and women and female writers. You wonder if we matter at all and Suzanne Scanlon says in a multitude of quietly intelligent and felt ways that we do, helplessly, all of us do, no matter.”—Eileen Myles
“In pitch-perfect prose, Suzanne Scanlon has given us wonderful Lizzie—smart, brave, and, at the same time, so scared stiff by her young life that that she winds up on a psych ward run by Dr. Roger, whose specialty is ‘troubled, pretty girls.’ Promising Young Women digs deep and speaks to us all about how we compose our individual lives in the wilds of modern times.”—Elizabeth Evans
“If Scanlon had employed the strategies of conventional realism, these troubling but utterly convincing stories of life in and out of psych wards would be mere bathos. Written through the liveliest sort of formal invention, they acquire real force and authority. The reader is driven before the story like something driven before a wave. And that is a deeply pleasurable feeling.”—Curtis White
“The voice, or voices, in Suzanne Scanlon’s PROMISING YOUNG WOMEN are sly, tragic, knowing, wounded, and brave. This wholly original novel is a wonderfully refreshing addition to the many stories that tell us the news of women’s grief, rebuilding, coming to terms.”—Mary Gordon