About the Book:
A wry and bold debut novel, which is at once an irresistible catastrophe waiting to happen and an unflinching exploration of how we narrate the stories of our lives, as an aspiring novelist finds herself stalking—and writing about—her boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend.
“I can’t help but compare our worth as writers, as lovers, as women. Is anything solely mine, or will I always dwell in someone else’s shadow?”
Twenty-four-year-old bookseller and New Yorker Naomi Ackerman, desperate to write a novel, struggles to find the right story to tell. When, after years of disastrous Tinder dates, she meets Caleb—a perfectly nice guy with a Welsh accent and a unique patience for all of her quirks—she feels she’s finally stumbled onto a time-honored subject: love. But then Caleb’s ex-girlfriend, Rosemary, enters the scene.
When Naomi learns that Rosemary is not safely tucked away overseas as she’d assumed but in fact lives in New York and works in the literary world, she is fundamentally threatened and intrigued in equal measure. On paper, Rosemary sounds like a better version of Naomi—but if they both fell for the same man, they must have something more essential in common.
Determined to figure out how their stories intertwine, Naomi’s casual Instagram stalking morphs into a full-blown friendship under false pretenses. She can’t seem to get herself to quit Rosemary, in whom she discovers an unexpected confidant—and she can’t stop writing about her either, having now found a more interesting subject for her nascent novel. As her lies and half-truths spiral out of her control, and fact and fiction become increasingly difficult to separate, Naomi manipulates the most important people in her life—her family, her friends, Caleb, Rosemary, and, perhaps most devastatingly, herself—in pursuit of her craft. Ultimately, she’s forced to decide who and what she’s willing to sacrifice to write them all the perfect ending.
“Who wants to read about bland, unconflicted people who simply love each other?”
A novel about an aspiring novelist writing a novel about her boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend? Obsessed! This book reminded me in some ways of You by Caroline Kepnes, so if you are a fan of Joe Goldberg, then you’ll love this book.
Naomi is a twenty-something writer who works during the day as a bookseller in New York City. Insecure but smart and funny, she cannot believe that her new boyfriend Caleb is actually interested in her. Her life is devoted to her craft, and her grandmother even provided her with a brownstone in Brooklyn as a writing studio. Nothing is off limits for her writing.
I love books about writing and publishing so I knew I would love this book from the first page. Naomi has always wanted to be a writer, and had her writing published at a young age. She knows how competitive publishing is and takes obsessive notes about almost all of her real-life encounters.
Her new boyfriend Caleb is perfect. He’s Welsh, he’s smart and kind and funny, and Naomi can actually envision a normal, drama-free relationship with him. But when she learns his ex-girlfriend Rosemary also lives in New York and actually works in publishing, Naomi hatches a scheme to meet her in real-life. It becomes clear that Naomi’s stalking is not going to end well, but she feels compelled to continue seeing Rosemary.
Her pretend life begins to collide with her real life and you know it will just be a matter of time until Caleb uncovers what she is doing. But has he really broken off all contact with Rosemary like he first claimed to Naomi?
“The kind of writer I aspire to be is artistically ruthless, always putting the page first. I feel split in two by my own need, sometimes, to overlook his humanity, to strip him for parts and reassemble him into whoever will best serve the scene, ignoring the ways in which he is real and lovable and good.”
Talk about an unreliable narrator! Naomi is a flawed protagonist but I still was rooting for her and felt sympathetic towards her. This is one of the those books that you cannot stop reading once you start. ‘A Novel Obsession’ ticked all the boxes for me: a contemporary story set in New York City in the world of publishing and writers with a darkly funny undercurrent. If this is a Caitlin Barasch’s debut novel, I cannot wait to see what she writes next!
“Only when I reveal my worst self, and am forgiven for it, will I be certain I am loved.”
(Thank you to the publisher for providing an advanced copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)