By Beth O’Leary. (Flatiron Books, 328 pages, $26.99).
Tiffy Moore has broken up with her boyfriend again, but this time it looks like it’s going to stick. (He came home with another woman. Then he announced his engagement. Those were pretty big clues.) Desperate, heartbroken and broke, Tiffy answers an ad for a flatmate. The price is right, but the arrangement is odd — Leon, her new roommate, works nights as an oncology nurse and spends weekends away. Tiffy can live there, sleep in the same bed, but perhaps never meet him.
This kind of relationship is what Post-it notes were invented for. The notes the two begin leaving each other slowly grow from all-business (“Would you mind putting the toilet seat down please?”) to longer, friendlier and confessional. When the flatmates do finally meet, it’s in a sexy, hilarious and deeply embarrassing way. Such fun.
Beth O’Leary’s “The Flatshare” springs from a classic rom-com setup — two strangers thrown together under awkward and yet intimate circumstances. But her book, while definitely romantic and comedic, has an underlying seriousness that gives the story heft. Her themes of ambition, domestic violence, thwarted justice, childhood cancer and closeted homosexuality turn this engaging summer read into a thought-provoking work of fiction.
But fun. Definitely fun.
Stay Up With Hugo Best
By Erin Somers. (Scribner, 265 pages, $26.)
Erin Somers’ compelling debut novel takes place over a brief period — the Memorial Day weekend following the final taping of a fictional long-running late night comedy show.
Books with this kind of pacing often invite reading in one fell swoop.
Still, I was surprised by just how much “Stay Up With Hugo Best” sucked me in for the ride as it chronicled a complicated #MeToo situation between a young comic and the older, David Letterman-like former boss she once idolized.
When Hugo Best invites June Bloom, a young writer on his now canceled show, to his house in Connecticut for the long weekend (“no funny business”), she says yes.
She’s pretty sure what she’s saying yes to, but how it all unfolds — there’s a pitying teen son, a bitter game of tennis and a visit to stand-up night at a townie bar that ends with them in the emergency room — is a story of sex, celebrity and power that feels fresh and unpredictable.
I found the whole book to be funny and relevant but also sad — and over too soon.