Though I got a kick out of Bonnie Garmus' "Lessons in Chemistry," when I read it in galleys, I thought its arch humor and obsession with gender equality would make it a special flavor for the general public. We saw how that went. Now along comes Sarah Blakley-Cartwright's debut adult novel, "Alice Sadie Celine." Here again we have whimsical, tongue-in-cheek writing, and another very smart, explicitly feminist character, a brilliant female celebrity who violates social mores.

As we now know, people love that.

On the other hand, with "Alice Sadie Celine," we are not talking about transgressing the long-gone mores of the 1950s and '60s. Here the issue is more explosive: Blakley-Cartwright's very smart woman has a red-hot lesbian affair with her daughter's best friend.

Beautiful, self-confident Alice, a daughter of the 1%, and super-serious loner Sadie, daughter of academic single mom Celine, have been inseparable since high school. As the book opens, the girls are in their 20s. Though she's moved to L.A. to pursue acting, Alice is temporarily back home in the Bay Area to appear in a community theater production of Shakespeare. Of course her beloved Sadie should be there on opening night. But Sadie has a plan to finally lose her virginity at 23, and not much enthusiasm for Alice's acting career, so she inveigles her mother to attend in her stead. Celine ends up going not once, not twice, but three nights in a row.

After which Alice and Celine repair to the Airbnb and "Celine's strong fingers slipped under the thin strap of Alice's G-string." Wait, wasn't Alice into guys? That was then, this is now:

"Alice had slept with Celine because she was famous, because she was sexy, because she wasn't that famous, because she wasn't conventionally sexy. Because she was twenty years older. Because she could see the girl in her. She slept with Celine because it was absolutely forbidden. She slept with Celine because it was suddenly possible."

But wait! Celine has never been interested in Alice, in fact hasn't ever understood why Sadie chose her to be her "person." But she adores her daughter. So why would she do this? Is it even believable? Honestly, it's just on the edge — but in Celine, Blakley-Cartwright has created a character who is that crazy, that powerful and that obsessed with breaking boundaries. "As a renowned feminist," we've been told, "Celine was a woman who defined what women were." She now thinks she's doing something similar for mothers.

The play ends and Alice goes back to L.A., but if you think that won't be the end of it, you're right. Boy, do those pages turn as the day of reckoning draws near!

Reading "Alice" will provoke strong reactions from any reader, but don't decide what you think until it's all over. After a gentle start, this book goes gangbusters, then has a completely unexpected and ingenious ending. It's almost as if Blakley-Cartwright invites us to participate in a thought experiment — how the hell is this going to turn out? She gets the prize for the winning solution.

Alice Sadie Celine

By: Sarah Blakley-Cartwright.

Publisher: Simon & Schuster, 272 pages, $26.99.