Leigh Stein’s new novel, The Fallback Plan, is the quintessential story of the generation now graduating from college, the boomerang generation some might say, i.e. my generation. Twenty-somethings everywhere will read about, if not directly their own lives, the lives of many of their friends, back at home and feeling stagnant, depressed, lonely, you know the drill.
Stein captures perfectly in protagonist Esther Kohler the self-obsessed college grad now trying to join “the grown-up world” but lacking the know-how to do so. College teaches you many things, but Esther realizes after graduation that it is no complete replacement for real-world experience, for dealing with the complexities and conundrums that life throws at you. She says it directly:
I’d always thought that if I completed the right steps, in the right order, each next step would magically reveal itself to me, like the blink of a lightning bug, or the glint of a skein of gold spun from straw. I got good-enough grades, I got into a good-enough school, where I got more good-enough grades, I made the plays, I graduated. I had learned so much – how to drink imaginary hot coffee, the definition of chlorofluorocarbon – and yet I was prepared for nothing.
Esther’s after-graduation goal is not to become an actress or a teacher or really anything. Her goals are no more lofty than sitting on the couch re-reading favorite childhood books, which, when faced with reality, seem awfully appealing. Her parents, of course, want her off that couch and in the world, and so volunteer her as a babysitter for a neighborhood family. Things get complicated, though, as Esther becomes entangled in the family’s murky emotional affairs, including the questions around the loss of their youngest child, just an infant, six months earlier. Continue reading