DURING THE SUMMER before her senior year, an unnamed narrator wanders her small Midwestern town in a sort of waking dream from her corporate bookstore job to basement house shows to the local diner. In Mairead Case's See You in the Morning, out this month from Chicago's Featherproof Books, these stops along the way are incidental. Somewhat refreshingly, this is not a book about how music saves or acceptance within counterculture; instead, it's about feeling constantly at sea, unsure of what belonging could even look like.
In a conversational voice that borders on prose poetry, our narrator sets quotidian observations against existential questions, and brilliantly odd witticisms emerge regularly and unexpectedly. "It is helpful, when you are sort of scared, to set a date when you should be really scared," she reminds us. Frustrated by the moms scrolling on their cell phones during story time at her job, she says, "You have to set an example once you have kids. Maybe that's part of why I don't want any."
Serious issues go on around her (eating disorders, abortions, abuse) and while she doesn't take them lightly, she reports on them through a curious lens that's both incredibly observant and perpetually disconnected; she knows so much, but in some ways is unable to arrive at a larger meaning.
"I felt sad that I never felt anything," she tells us early on. It's this one-liner, this passing disclosure, that could be seen as the contradiction at the source of her struggles. She's rarely sure of what she feels or wants. Every desire has an implied question mark—she's often not even sure enough of herself to be melodramatic.
Within its 126 pages, See You in the Morning tells enough stories to allow for a half-dozen different interpretations of what its prevailing theme might be. The book sits nicely between genres, part literary fiction and part young adult (a zone explored with great success in Jo Ann Beard's In Zanesville and Sara Jaffe's Dryland). This makes it the perfect book for anyone unconvinced that the accepted path toward adulthood is for everyone—and for those perpetually figuring out what it might be to belong.