Casey Peabody did not expect adulthood to be like this: she did not expect to be drowning in student debt or waiting tables at a pretentious Boston-area restaurant at the age of thirty-one. She did not expect to be living in a moldering garden shed — and paying rent for the privilege. She did not expect that all of her writer friends would have stopped writing entirely (to get real jobs) or to get her heart broken by a poet, or to develop an alarming number of health problems in a very short time.
Mostly, though, she did not expect her mother to die.
Unmoored by grief, Casey is struggling to move forward. Writers & Lovers follows its sharp-witted, keen-eyed protagonist as she gradually, painstakingly, begins to find her way again. Her slow surfacing from grief is beautifully observed by author Lily King, especially when Casey talks about the void left by her mother’s death. But what could have been a maudlin, meandering tale instead feels quietly hopeful, especially as the novel progresses and Casey begins to heal — and to write.
It’s not surprising that Casey’s writing life feels so authentic — the scenes of her procrastination and self-doubt ring true to anyone who has ever wanted to write something, and one can only assume that the author drew on her own processes. But when Casey begins to write again — to really write again, working on her long-stalled novel, it feels like such a triumph and joy that you can’t help be charmed, regardless of what happens with her book. It’s the writing that truly saves Casey, and as her ability to write returns, she’s able to connect with other people, to allow herself to be vulnerable — and that, too, moves her further along the path to healing.
As it happens, writing also brings Casey not one but two love interests — a critically acclaimed author and an aspiring writer, each with their own well-developed baggage. Lest the notion of a love triangle scare you off, however, rest assured: these relationships never overwhelm the novel. Casey’s writing and her journey through her grief take center stage, especially in the last third of the book.
When I first picked up Writers & Lovers, I worried that it might be too dark for me right now — I’m not in the mood for grim tales about miserable people who end the book miserable in a different way. Instead, I was delighted to find a beautifully written story about finding hope in dark times, about the power of creation and connection to buoy us even when the world feels overwhelming.