My rating: 5 of 5 stars
The novel’s two POV protagonists, Evvie and Ben, find themselves on the other side of true love: in their early forties, each puzzled by the person their spouse has become. When Ben leaves Evvie for a more emotionally stable woman, Evvie loses her last kite string to earth and begins to look for ways to bring Ben back to her. What results is a potentially violent ploy that is equal parts darkness and innocence.
First You Try Everything is not misty-edged, upmarket women’s fiction. It’s raw, unpredictable, stripped of the white-collar padding that often collects around marriage-related novels by college professors. Disclosure: Jane McCaffery is a former teacher and friend of mine, and I know her well enough to say that if Kierkegaard, Mother Theresa, and Chuck Palahniuk collaborated on an MFA, you’d get writing a bit like hers.
Evvie and Ben sort their way through nothing less than existence itself, always walking in that wobbly place between self-transcendence and identity. To me, the novel seems to open up the adage, “You know me better than I know myself,” and looks at the messy place inside: the absurdity of knowing oneself, the risks of being in love, how scary and beautiful life becomes when you start to pay attention to it.