Categories: Fiction

Even So by Lauren B. Davis

The uniquely challenging (and fascinating) recent novels of Lauren B. Davis inhabit a blasted moral landscape of human weakness and depravity. In Our Daily Bread and The Empty Room, she fearlessly chronicles the myriad ways in which people damage themselves and hurt one another as they go about satisfying cravings and fleeing responsibilities. The world of these novels is a contemporary one filled with temptation. However, Davis is first and foremost a storyteller, primarily concerned with immersing her reader in an engaging drama. She is not interested in preaching or moralizing. Even So is another example of her consummate art.

“Davis is first and foremost a storyteller, primarily concerned with immersing her reader in an engaging drama. Even So is another example of her consummate art.”

Chic, attractive forty-something Angela Morrison lives a pampered life in affluent Princeton, New Jersey. Married to Philip, a successful financier many years older than her, Angela is comfortable but bored. It is a dangerous sort of boredom that afflicts Angela, the kind that breeds bitterness and frustration. Fed up with her husband’s priggishness, Angela wants to feel young again. Her craving is for romance and adventure. But Angela also has a good heart: she loves her son Connor (who is just about to start university) and volunteers at Our Daily Bread Food Pantry in nearby Trenton, a town that long ago lost its industrial base and where poverty and homelessness are rampant.

The Pantry is run by Sister Eileen. Sister Eileen is suffering from a crisis of faith: deeply troubled by God’s silence and tormented by guilt over an unforgivable act from her youth. Sister Eileen does not like Angela—she thinks the woman is spoiled and irresponsible—but her disapproval serves no purpose: she must, for the good of the Pantry and to remain true to her faith, view Angela through the rosy glow of God’s love.
When an opportunity arises to turn the vacant lot next to the Pantry into a community garden, Eileen asks Angela to oversee the project along with Carsten, a professional landscaper. It turns out Carsten is exactly what Angela is looking for—unattached, attractive, attentive, with a mysterious air of foreignness—and a playful flirtation quickly blossoms into a full-blown affair. When Carsten gives her keys to his house, Angela begins to imagine their future together.
Angela Morrison’s downfall, when it comes, is nobody’s fault but her own: the result of overblown, unjustified expectations and willful blindness. But when her reckless behaviour turns tragic, she seeks an unlikely saviour in Sister Eileen.

It is not unusual for Lauren Davis to take risks in her fiction—to place weak and reprehensible characters front and centre. In Even So, she has written a novel about a profoundly selfish woman who acts to satisfy her own desires with little regard for consequences or the pain she causes others. When those desires are thwarted, she becomes petulant and self-destructive.
But Davis knows what she’s doing. The story she tells is suspenseful and moving, characters and setting are vividly drawn with precise attention to detail, the psychology of the novel is persuasive, her prose sparkles. The novel’s lesson is embedded in the drama and arises naturally from the action. Despite her main character’s deceitful nature and personal failures, we are drawn into a compulsively readable narrative that is impossible to put down.
Readers may not like Angela Morrison, but Lauren Davis ensures they will be captivated by her story.

A Miramichi Reader “Best Fiction of 2021” choice!

Lauren B. Davis is the author of The Grimoire of Kensington MarketAgainst a Darkening SkyThe Empty RoomOur Daily Bread, and The Radiant City. She has been longlisted for the Giller Prize and the ReLit Awards, and shortlisted for the Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize. Lauren lives in Princeton, New Jersey.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Dundurn Press (Sept. 14 2021)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 336 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 145974764X
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1459747647

Ian Colford

Ian Colford’s short fiction has appeared in Grain, The Antigonish Review, The Fiddlehead and other literary publications. His books are Evidence, The Crimes of Hector Tomás, Perfect World and A Dark House and Other Stories. His work has been shortlisted for the Thomas H. Raddall Atlantic Fiction Award, the Journey Prize, and the Danuta Gleed Literary Award. A new collection of linked stories, Witness, will be published by Porcupine's Quill in spring 2023.

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