"THE FUTURES" has all the hallmarks that make for a compelling, well-written novel. It has a palpable sense of time and place that is readily relatable to any reader. And characters - both major and minor - who spring immediately to life within the first few pages or chapters. What's more: for anyone who has gone through and/or graduated from college or university and then found him/herself at a loss what to do with their life for 2 or 5 years afterward, this is a novel that will give some added perspective to that earlier time of being.
"THE FUTURES" largely revolves around the lives of Evan Peck and Julia Edwards. (The reader is presented with the experiences - separate and shared - of Evan and then Julia across different chapters. Kudos to the author for being able to so deftly place herself in a man's mind.) Evan hailed from a small town in the interior of Western Canada, where his parents had a small grocery business. It was the kind of town that maintained its own slow, measured rhythms. Its inhabitants tended to have modest ambitions and most never left town after graduating from high school. Evan, on the other hand, was one of the few who dared to believe that he could become a part of the wider world, and thrive therein. Hockey was his passion and through it, he secured a scholarship to Yale University in 2004. There, he made the acquaintance of Julia, who came from a well-to-do family in Boston with connections. (Her father was a high-powered lawyer.) They - both freshmen - began as friends and, gradually, that seemingly easy and comfortable friendship blossomed into a romantic relationship.
What I loved most about "THE FUTURES" is how skillfully Anna Pitoniak was able to make plain and REAL the lives of both Evan and Julia, and how their relationship developed, flourished, and later fell apart. From Yale to post-graduate life together in a modest, walk-up apartment in Brooklyn in the summer of 2008. I'm not going to say much more than that - except that the immediate impact of the 2008 economic crisis is as much a major factor in influencing the heart of the novel as the characters themselves who strut themselves upon the stage in a city that never sleeps.
Here are a few quotes to give you a flavor of what makes "THE FUTURES" compelling and self-revelatory:
Julia: "I could close my eyes, and the sounds of the party weren't so different from those in college, but I wasn't tricking myself. The feeling in the air had changed. There was a whole world out there, beyond wherever we were gathered. It didn't matter whether it was a cramped walk-up or a tar rooftop or a weedy backyard strung with lights. How you spent your time was suddenly up to you."
Julia: "I suppose, at the time [September 2008], I didn’t understand how rapidly my feelings toward Evan were evolving. ...We’d fought in college, but those fights always felt specific; firewords that faded into smoke as fast as they arrived. But in New York, in the real world, every annoyance and disagreement felt like a referendum on our relationship. The bitterness started to linger. I was seeing growing evidence of why this was never going to work.”
Hands down, "THE FUTURES" is THE BEST NOVEL I've had the pleasure of reading so far in 2018.