It’s 1995. When she can, Sybil Weatherfield works as an office temp. But in her jobless hours she may be her generation’s Dorothy Parker, writing a confessional column for the alternative weekly, New York Shock. Her friends include a paperpusher for a human rights organization and the lead singer of a local rock band called Glass Half Empty. Together they try to find a path from their own wry inactivity to something real and lasting that can matter to them. Richly funny and wincingly specific, this cunning debut novel is a bittersweet and ironic look at what it means to be enthralled by an idea—by even the most ragged possibility of love. (Summary provided by Unbridled Books.)
Love Slave by Jennifer Spiegel is about Sybil Weatherfield, a thirty-year-old writer/temp trying to survive in mid 1990s New York City. Sybil has a column called “Abscess” in a hip, alternative paper, and a handsome boyfriend. Things should be great, right? Wrong. Despite having regular employment writing her column Sybil has to temp to make ends meet. She also feels like she’s settling with her straitlaced boyfriend whom she has very little in common with. She has fallen into a routine and forgotten the dreams of becoming a great writer that brought her to New York in the first place. As Sybil develops a friendship with Rob, lead singer of local band Glass Half Empty, she starts to realize she’s become complacent. Basically Love Slave is about that Gen X moment when romanticized reality starts to bite and so-called life choices are questioned.
I was a 90s teen, and Love Slave was like a soft blanket of nostalgia for me. It was also a reminder of what life was like in the 90s. It was cool to be cynical, and I was (and still am) a cynic. Sybil and her friends, Rob and Madeline, are cynics too. They live in a world where it’s trendy to question everything. Sybil slowly begins to realize this through her friendship with Rob. Rob is one of those complicated bad boys readers will not be able to help themselves from falling in love with. Rob is a widower. His wife died of cancer seven years earlier, and he still wears his wedding ring. Rob made my cynical heart melt. Sybil begins falling for Rob and questioning her forced relationship with her boyfriend Jeff. She also starts to wonder if she should call it quits in NYC and go home to California. Sybil is a realistic heroine. Her choices are not always perfect, but she manages to have moments of redemption.
Spiegel does an awesome job of capturing the essence of the 1990s. From the clothes to the music to the general attitude of the time period, reading the book made me feel young again. Sybil’s “Abscess” columns were interspersed throughout the book. With each one I felt like I was reading one of the photocopied zines I subscribed to in high school or a really good column in Sassy.
When I finished Love Slave, I found myself back in 2012. Gone are the days when cynics graced our TV screens and the pages of books, parked on their couches with temporary jobs waiting for life to happen. Now it’s cool to be quirky, hopeful. Hopeful that you’re just one quirky, viral video away from becoming famous. Hopeful that your blog or twitter campaign will save the world. Love Slave took me back to the days when it was okay to take it slow. To wait for art and life to happen organically. A time when you could lay back on the couch and say “don’t Bogart that can man,” without wondering if it would end up on YouTube. Don’t get me wrong. Hope is awesome, but I miss the days when my bad attitude was edgy. (I also miss not wondering whether random thoughts were “tweetable.”) Maybe Carly Simon’s right and it’ll all come around again eventually.
Can I just jump back into the pages of Love Slave and hang out for a while? Oh, I can? *jumps in* I will definitely read this one again.
FTC Disclosure Statement: I received a complimentary review copy of Love Slave from the publisher. I also receive a small commission from any purchases made by clicking through the Amazon links throughout the site.