Carrie Pilby, by Caren Lissner

>> Thursday, May 04, 2006

I very much enjoyed Caren Lissner's second book, Starting From Square Two, so I went looking for her first, Carrie Pilby.

Carrie Pilby n. [kar-r? pil-b?] A person of high intelligence who struggles to make sense of the world as it relates to morality, relationships, sex and leaving her apartment.

"I wouldn't have such trouble adjusting to the world if the world made sense. Which it doesn't . . . Maybe the world should adjust to me."

Carrie Pilby doesn't fit in -- and she's pretty much given up trying. A year out of college and settling in to life in the big city, this nineteen-year-old genius believes everyone she meets is immoral, sex obsessed and hypocritical, and the only person she sees on a regular basis is her therapist. When he comes up with a five-point plan to help her discover the "positive aspects of social interaction," Carrie, who would rather stay home in bed, is forced to view the world in a new light.

See life through Carrie's eyes as she opens up to unusual characters, gets herself into compromising situations and casts her keen eye on the ways people interact. Filled with wry humor and insight, Carrie Pilby explores the trade-offs we all make to fit in.
This was an interesting, different book. A B.

19-year-old college graduate Carrie Pilby is a misfit. Ever since she skipped three grades in school and then ended up going to Harvard and being much younger than anyone there, Carrie has felt like she doesn't fit in with other people. Everyone she meets is either stupid, hypocritical, sex-obsessed or all three. She just doesn't see the point in even trying any more.

Carrie lives in NYC in an appartment paid for by her dad, and does pretty much nothing all day. Other than temp jobs her dad does his best to line up for her, all Carrie does is see her therapist (yep, also paid by daddy), and try to resist the temptation to stay all day sleeping in bed. One day, her therapist puts together a list of things for her to do, things he believes might help her start to relate with other people. Carrie thinks they are terribly silly, but no way she'll admit she can't do them, so she gives them a try.

If I were to compare this book to anything, I think it would be the TV show Seinfeld. They were definitely similar in the way there's really not that much going on, but you have fun anyway. All the action here is Carrie trying to do things as scintillating as going on a date, or joining a club. She answers a personal ad, she goes to a new church to investigate whether or not it might be a cult, she does some temp work doing legal proof-reading... oh, and she goes to her therapist. That's about it. And yet the book never gets boring.

The key thing is that Carrie is quite an interesting character, and I enjoyed seeing life from her perspective. To be honest, I didn't always like her (for all her intelligence, she feels much younger than 19 emotionally, and her immature black-and-white sanctimoniousness wasn't always appealing), but she was unique enough that I had fun reading about her. And Lissner was able to perfectly convey her pain in never feeling that there was a place for her.

Lissner's writing is good. I especially liked that there are plenty of witty observations about life in general, and most of them were really intriguing. Not always, (some of those supposedly "brilliant" meditations weren't as brilliant as Lissner must have intended), but most of the time she had me laughing out loud.

The ending was perfect. There were no huge change by the end of the book, but there were plenty of small ones that made me hopeful that Carrie would continue to grow up. There's even an intriguing possible romance!


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