‘How Could She: A Novel’ review: Lauren Mechling impresses with asute debut

"How Could She: A Novel" by Lauren Mechling.
"How Could She: A Novel" by Lauren Mechling. Photo Credit: Dylan Johnson

New York City exerts an almost mythical allure for millions who dream of moving to the city. If one’s friends have already managed to make it there, the resulting envy can prove a powerful, if not entirely positive, motivator.

Brooklyn-based writer Lauren Mechling‘s astutely rendered debut novel, “How Could She,” features a trio of women, all in their late thirties, at various stages of New Yorker-dom.

Geraldine, Rachel and Sunny met working for a magazine in Toronto. The latter two have since married and relocated to NYC — one is an emerging author, the other a successful artist — while Geraldine remains single in Canada. Rachel and Sunny draw closer together to help Geraldine, but she opts to blaze her own path, socially and professionally, keeping her old friends at arm’s length.

Mechling does a remarkable job portraying the shifting realignments of the women’s loyalties, to each other and to their significant others. These are characters who will likely seem eerily familiar to certain readers.

This specificity or, less charitably, this lack of diversity, is the novel’s one shortcoming. Mechling chronicles an almost exclusively white, upper middle-class slice of the city, though that relatively narrow focus helps make these portrayals ring so true — a birthday party at Underhill Playground in Prospect Heights could almost be reportage.

Though it is only mentioned a handful of times, the fallout of the 2016 presidential election lurks beneath the surface, as it increasingly does in so much contemporary fiction, which is another way the book manages to nail our moment in time: while we might aspire to lives that are always cognizant of the historic nature of our era, most of us are merely social creatures who yearn to be successful, loved and recognized, even when those urges work against our best interests.