Rising Star, by Susannah Nix

I fell in love with Susannah Nix’s work when I read REMEDIAL ROCKET SCIENCE, and her book of short stories, I & LOVE & YOU, sealed the deal for me.

Nix’s latest book, RISING STAR, is another winner, and everything I hoped. Her characters are so deeply human. They struggle things most people have been consumed by at one point or another in their lives: with money or finding a place to live before their lease is up; they worry about jobs, and if they measure up. One of the most appealing things about the gorgeous, movie star hero, Griffin Beach, (whose last name is not actually Beach) was the miserable diet he’s stuck on, and the way he internalizes his anxiety about his career and the things he’s given up to keep it afloat. It reminded me, in a way of reading a biography of Cary Grant and that incredible quote: “Everybody wants to be Cary Grant. I want to be Cary Grant.”

The hero comes in a pretty package, and sure that’s helps, but it’s the pain and the longing of a real human being underneath that you fall in love with. It’s a brilliant book, with some truly fresh moments. Both Alice and Griffin face significant choices and challenges in their careers, and I loved the way Nix handled these without resorting to flashy, implausible sacrifices and victories. Unexpectedly, one of my favorite parts of the book (besides the delicious, swoon-inducing love scenes) turned out to be Alice’s Ph.D. advisor, and the advice she gives Alice about handling a sexual harassment complaint. I think her wise, compassionate words may be the part I remember longest.