Review: Cult Classic by Sloane Crosley

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Tentative Release Date: June 7, 2022

Pre-order Here: Publisher Website, Bookshop, Amazon

Synopsis:

Cult Classic is a comic mystery about love, memory, and mind control from New York Times-bestselling author and two-time Thurber Prize finalist Sloane Crosley.

One idle weeknight in New York’s Chinatown, our heroine is at a reunion dinner with her former colleagues when she ducks out to buy cigarettes. On the way back, she runs into a former boyfriend. And then another. And…another. Nothing is quite what it seems as the city becomes awash with ghosts of heartbreaks past. What would normally pass for coincidence becomes something far stranger as Lola must contend not only with the viability of her current relationship but the fact that both her best friend and former boss, a magazine editor-turned-mystical-guru, might have an acutely unhealthy investment in the outcome. Memories of the past swirl and converge in ways both comic and eerie, as Lola is forced to decide if she will buy into the tenets of romantic love, change who she is to do it and surrender herself to one very contemporary cult.

Both suspenseful and delightfully funny, this new novel from Sloane Crosley combines the breathtaking twists and turns of a psychological thriller with the will-she-won’t-she of a romantic comedy. Cult Classic is an original: a masterfully crafted, surrealist meditation on love in an age when the past is ever at your fingertips and sanity is for sale. With her gimlet eye, Crosley spins a wry romantic fantasy that is equal parts page-turner and poignant portrayal of alienation.

Review:

Sloane Crosley has made a name for herself with three books of essays and one novel. Cult Classic is her second novel, and it centers around Lola, a woman who is engaged to be married, has lived and dated in New York for years, and is starting to run into all of her ex-boyfriends for some reason. One random ex is weird, two is a coincidence, but the third random ex-boyfriend makes her start thinking something might be going on. And of course she is right. Her best friend and ex-boss turned TV guru, whom she worked for at a now defunct magazine, Modern Psychology, have a vested interest in Lola running into these ex-boyfriends and how it affects her. 

Lola has dated many men for short periods of time. With every breakup, even amicable, there are feelings that are usually left unresolved. They stay unresolved but they also shape the way a person continues with new romances. When confronted with these people, does Lola feel a sense of healing and closure for all of the wounds that never fully heal? The idea is that every relationship, no matter how long or short, changes the person, and that love is all we seek and the biggest motivator. Lola is being asked the question of whether closure of previous relationships will make her current one stronger. 

Sloane Crosley’s writing is easy and funny and the novel moves at a quick pace. She is known for her humorous essays, especially the collection, I Was Told There’d Be Cake, so her humor shines, especially in the character of Lola. As the novel progresses, I like the Lola more and more, especially her dialogue and the way that she interacts with those around her. I like Lola better than the story. I know the ideas behind Cult Classic are kind of interesting, the structure and the story itself is a bit dull. Some of the choices for scenes and structure that Crosley makes seem to drag down the pace of the story. The biggest example of this is that after the first big reveal about what is happening to Lola, the next chapter is about Lola and Boots, her fiancé, going to a wedding out of the city. Crosley has the story right where it needs to be but then immediately removes the characters with a chapter that has very little bearing on the rest of the novel. We are then reintroduced to the things happening between Lola and her random ex sightings. There are a few smaller instances that do the same thing. There are a more than one moment when Crosley takes us out of the story with a chapter or even scene that is irrelevant. which makes her job harder because she has to reel us back into the plot. Even though Crosley has written a great character with some very funny dialogue and a book with an interesting concept, there are choices that she makes with storytelling and structure that make portions of this novel fall flat.

I am not one that looks up the artists of book covers very often, but June Park, the artist, deserves some attention. This could be the best cover of the decade.

I received this ARC from the publisher and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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