We Do What We Do In The Dark by Michelle Hart is a coming-of-age novel about a woman in college who has an affair with a married female professor at her school shortly after the death of her mother. The secret relationship has a significant impact on her, one that she still feels years after they stop seeing each other. We Do What We Do In The Dark is ultimately about loneliness and the need to be accepted and loved.
Why I picked it up: I thought the premise sounded good, and the library hold came in at a good time!
Mallory is a freshman at a New York college the year after her mother dies after a long bout with cancer. A loner, she rarely engages with anyone outside of her roommate, yet falls quickly for a professor who works out at the gym at the same time she does. The woman is never named; she is simply called “the woman” throughout the book. The woman is taken with her too, and soon they have embarked on an affair. Throughout the affair, Mallory passively floats along, responding to the woman’s moods and following her lead. Mallory is never sure of where she stands, a byproduct of her youth and inexperience, and she is impressionable and sensitive to the woman’s comments and opinions.
We Do What We Do In The Dark jumps around in time from Mallory’s childhood and adolescence to the years that follow the relationship with the woman. It’s an intimate, melancholy read, one where I sometimes felt uncomfortably exposed to some pretty private thoughts. But I enjoyed the beautiful writing, and I think I’d be hard-pressed to find someone who couldn’t relate to the dynamic at the heart of this novel, regardless of the genders involved. Our views of relationships – and who we are in those relationships – changes over the course of our lives as we age and gain experience and confidence, and Hart captured that perfectly. This literary fiction choice won’t be for everyone, but I am really glad I read it.
We Do What We Do In The Dark was the 35th book of 2022.