Constance, now that her daughter is away at college, has finally left her husband with the intent of living with her boyfriend of several years. Except he’s not interested, so she stays with her father and step-mother (both senior V.P.s of the energy company where Constance works), then in a hotel for a month, then she moves into a “corporate apartment” with a stranger, Fanny Mann. [I think there’s a flaw in the time frame here; Constance refers to her divorce, but it appears that only 5 weeks have passed since he told her husband about her affair which is what prompted him to throw her out. But maybe I missed something.] Constance isn’t too comfortable with who she is and doesn’t like to be alone. (Fanny isn’t that different, really, and goes through a series of cosmetic surgeries.) And in a sense Constance doesn’t exist anyway – there’s someone else’s voice on the answering machine; calls come for various former residents of the apartment, including Shauntrelle, which leads Fanny to jokingly call her by the names of those various phantoms. In the end, although Constance is a wonderfully complex character, I don’t feel that she has changed or learned, and as a reader I’m not really interested in what happens to her. She herself has no idea where she’s going next. I like Nelson’s work very much (I met her at Bread Loaf last year), but I don’t think the ending of this story is successful.
July 23, 2007: “Shauntrelle” by Antonya Nelson