Playwright and actor Cordelia Strube's third novel is an unsettling portrayal of life as a single mom in the city. Rita Johnson lives with her six-year-old son, Max, fibroids on her uterus, and battered self-esteem. "She has noticed that generally, if she says little, admirable qualities will be projected onto her. Her mistake has always been to open her mouth." Adding to Rita's tapestry of despair are her Archie Bunker-like father, an MS-stricken mother who also suffers from dementia, an unhappily married sister, and a mentally ill brother. And then there's Max's absentee father, a troubled surgeon damaged by his work in war-torn parts of the world. Rita spends her days writing scripts for industrial videos, battling the mice that have invaded her house, and trying to shield her son from a world she has lost faith in. From car vandals to gun-toting prowlers to juvenile bike thieves, there's a bogeyman behind every bush.
While recovering from an operation Rita meets Edith, a fellow patient who becomes her confidant and friend. Edith's unsophisticated wisdom gives Rita an anchor. But when life takes yet another horrible turn, it threatens to topple Rita from the tightrope she is walking. Rita's hope for salvation lies in finding her own humanity amid the chaos of the world around her. Without ever becoming overwhelmed by the darkness of its tale, Strube's novel documents the extraordinary pressures of modern urban life. --Moe Berg