Looker by Laura Sims
Here’s a fast, psychological thriller about a woman’s obsession with her neighbor, a beautiful and famous actress. The story is set in an unnamed urban neighborhood (Brooklyn?) and is narrated by the woman. It begins just as her marriage has ended, marking the onset of her psychological decline. Years of unsuccessful fertility treatments have left her feeling like a failure and she obsesses with her actress neighbor’s perfect life: a successful career, three beautiful children, and a gorgeous husband.
At first, she takes comfort in watching the actress walk by, with her baby or off for a jog. She notes everything about her beauty, clothes and healthy glow. At night, she peers in the actress family’s window, noting the seemingly effortless life inside. When that’s not enough, she fills her spare room with discarded items the actress has left at the curb.
She tells herself it’s all okay, that her life is under control. And she even starts to like the cat her husband left, his cat, she notes. Her job as a poetry professor seems to be okay too, but she soon falls into a relationship that will put her career in jeopardy. At this point, the narrator begins to step in and out of reality and makes rash and reckless decisions, many times after a lot of beer or wine.
Readers are certain of a train wreck, but the suspense is in not knowing how it will happen. A neighborhood party marks one of the last stops before the crash.
I tore through Looker, not just to see what happens. Readers also get a good look into an unraveling mind, which is not just a series of irrational and bad decisions. The author shows the narrator’s fragile and desperate efforts to be acknowledged as a human, and not judged because she can’t get pregnant. As the narrator looks inside the actress’s window she thinks, “Let me in. I too, am cherished and kept.”
I enjoyed reading this quick story about envy and jealousy and recommend it to readers who like psychological novels. I’ll be looking out for more books by Laura Sims.
Laura Sims is an American novelist and poet. She is a professor of creative writing, literature and composition at New York University.
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