‘They’re Going to Love You’ by Meg Howrey
Meg Howrey’s latest novel benefits greatly from how dance lessons can also be applied to the text as a metaphor. The narrator, 43-year-old Carlisle Martin, is a dancer, choreographer and child of dancers; the presence of careful movements, an exquisitely thought-out gesture adds an extra tension to each side. When Carlisle learns that her father, Robert, is dying, she leaves her home in Los Angeles and goes to New York to visit him, after a 19-year absence that she is reluctant to explain.
The slow pace of this revelation – a nod to and a nod to the arguments between Carlisle and her father but backing away from a clear explanation – reflects the way Carlisle feels about the matter. She creates versions of her own story that oscillate between anger and tenderness. She recalls that when she was 14, 1987 was “the summer of James,” in a tone that contains both wistfulness and warning, a tone Howrey excels at.
James is well drawn, caught in an eternal state of wistfulness; he is clever, talkative, charming, instructive. Carlisle’s admiration for him is unwavering, and her affection for him overshadows that for one of her parents. When James develops a bond with one of his dance students, Alex, it causes a rift between him and Robert.
James asks Carlisle, then in his mid-20s, for help and sends her to Mexico with a gift for Alex. Carlisle, in turn, begins an affair with Alex while James attempts suicide. He survives, but the question of who is to blame for this near-tragedy is enough to erase Carlisle rather messily from the lives of her father and James.
Carlisle’s voice is thoughtful and repetitive; often the questions she asks reflect questions the reader might have. Howrey’s prose is sharp and clear when it comes to dance. “Dancing on pointe makes ballet a weapon. … We’re getting bigger and our spins are getting faster. Everything becomes more dangerous and direct, literally more pointed. Our legs become swords.”
Dance offers a certain ecstatic power, but it is more than that; to be a dancer, this novel suggests, is to be prone to strong physicality. “The past gets caught in the lungs, the joints, the interstitial spaces between the tissues of our bodies,” writes Howrey.
Despite her talent and strength and balletic prowess, Carlisle’s concerns translate into every form of ambition and insecurity. “It’s my legacy,” says Carlisle. “Know the exact distance between yourself and greatness.”
The love affairs and family estrangement are well fleshed out and intriguing, but the most beautiful aspect of this novel is Howrey’s way of capturing the artistic process.
Jackie Thomas-Kennedy’s writing has appeared in American Short Fiction, One Story, Electric Literature, Lenny Letter, Narrative, Harvard Review, and others. She is a former Stegner Fellow at Stanford University.
they will love you
Of: Meg Howrey.
Publisher: Doubleday, 267 pages, $28.