Want by Lynn Steager Strong is not a happy book. Its unnamed narrator, a mother of two young daughters in her thirties, lives with her husband in their cramped Brooklyn apartment. She works two jobs to make ends meet, wakes up at 4:30 AM to run miles in the cold, and spends her afternoons skipping out of work and sitting in bars, obsessing over her estranged childhood best friend, Sasha. She and her husband have no money, thanks to low paying jobs and a c-section and dental work that wasn’t covered by insurance, but she won’t ask her wealthy parents for help because of their lack of support of her professional choices and impatience with her depression. And that’s basically all that happens. I finished Want several days ago, but I have had a hard time figuring out how to review it. Here goes…
Why I picked it up: I’ve had Want on my radar since it came out last summer, and it’s my book club’s October read.
Want is one polarizing book! Some people call it the aimless rant of a privileged white woman with a safety net that most people don’t have, while others appreciated the accurate depiction of raw emotions and the depth and variety of a woman’s desires. Mine fell closer to the second of those opinions. Yes, she made bad decisions and could be selfish and inconsiderate. But I liked her honesty. The relentless swirl of her financial anxiety, desire for friendship and connection, concern for her students, love for children and husband, and precarious mental health – it felt like a vibrant mix of emotions swirled in a blender. (Maybe that’s how they came up with that gorgeous cover?) It was sometimes exhausting, but always real.
Want isn’t for everyone, and I suspect we’ll have a robust discussion about it when our book club meets. I’m glad I read it, though.
Want was the 47th book of 2021, which means I have 22 left to reach my goal for the year. I don’t think it’s going to happen.