The Futures: A Novel by Anna Pitoniak (Lee Boudreaux Books/Little, Brown, $26.00, 320 pages)
The reign of dreariness…
One word kept coming to mind as I read this book – dreary. This is a dreary novel about over-educated, highly-privileged people who live in New York City. They hate both their professional and personal lives. It’s a story about individuals in their twenties – just out of Ivy League colleges – who attempt to live like adults; something at which they are absolute failures.
I had just graduated. I was trying to become an adult, trying to navigate the real world. Trying to find an answer to what came next. Who wouldn’t be made anxious by that? The problem existed in the present tense.
Do you sense the weariness that pervades these words? These are twenty-year-olds going on 90. It’s not pleasant.
It is hardly necessary to describe the characters in The Futures, except that they’re individuals – presumably highly intelligent ones – who wind up working on Wall Street and in not-so-hot careers in the Big Apple. None of them love their lives as adults, but sometimes pretend to:
I was beginning to understand why people sometimes stayed in jobs they hated. It wasn’t just about the paycheck. It was about the structure, contributing to the hum of civilized society. My own contribution was almost invisible, but I liked the coutrements. The nameplate on my desk; the security guard in the lobby who knew me by sight. Even if the job wasn’t much, it was something.
See, these are young people – very spoiled young people – who have just started their working careers. They are already emotionally and physically gone, burnt out and done with the world. (All their best days and best times were in college when real life was something off in the non-imagined future.) So they party a lot and they drink like there’s no tomorrow – which was somewhat accurate during the 2000s financial collapse, and they labor to destroy each other. Friendship, loyalty – what is that?
As one might guess, these characters are not exactly likeable and their encounters with love, marriage, and relationships are horrific.
I am about to turn twenty-three years old, and I couldn’t even begin to imagine it, real adulthood.
It was hard for me to imagine these people having any basis in reality.
Although Pitoniak’s writing goes on for 311 pages, the story is pretty much over at page 229. One third remains at that point, but neither the author’s heart nor soul seemed to be in it. Maybe she was herself burnt out at that point. I certainly was as a reader. Nevertheless, I trudged ahead until reaching the unsatisfactory ending of a far less than enjoyable or engaging work.
I went to the Met that afternoon, but I couldn’t focus on the art. My lack of concentration seemed like a failure, and it gave the museum an oppressive air: another reminder of my inability to engage, to find a passion, to figure it out.
Oh my, so sad. And so very, very dreary.
A review copy was received from the publisher.
This book was released on January 17, 2017.