Jane, the protagonist of Rae Meadows' Calling Out, is a recent transplant to Utah from Manhattan. Just jilted by her long-term boyfriend (who still phones her regularly), Jane takes a job as a switchboard operator at a Salt Lake City escort agency. Initially she only works the phones; as expected, however, she soon begins escorting.
Drawn to the book more for its setting in Salt Lake City than its titillating subject matter, I found Meadows' writing very comfortable. With a perfect mix of credible dialogue and simple-yet-potent descriptions of everything from the Wasatch Mountains to a line of cocaine, Meadows never gets overly "writerly" on her readers.
At the same time, she refrains from underestimating the intelligence of her audience. When expounding upon history of the Mormons and Utah's geography, she drops facts like a new resident would—as she herself discovers them. In fact, I was so taken that I was momentarily inspired to propose to my boyfriend that we relocate to Salt Lake City to experience the city's tidy repression for a little while.
As a reader, my only disappointment occurred when Jane herself began working as an escort—not for any moral objections, but it seemed like a plot cop-out to me. While I have read several stories about timid women turning tricks for no good reason, I had never read a book about someone in a position to simply observe other escorts—let alone in Utah (where, as one might imagine, rules concerning prostitution are much more stringent). When Jane went out for her first "date," I felt the disappointment one feels when two sitcom characters, after seasons of sexual tension, finally hook up. What's left to anticipate?
To Meadows' credit, it becomes somewhat necessary for Jane to make a go at hooking in order for her to make certain self-realizations. Additionally, Meadows stops short of giving the reader what they expect will take place. Nevertheless, this intriguing first novel could have been even more absorbing had the heroine (and the author) not taken the easier way out.