Book Review: You Think It, I’ll Say It by Curtis Sittenfeld

Like peering through your neighbor’s curtain, Curtis Sittenfeld provides a glimpse into the lives of a variety of people and the situations that test their character in her newest work, You Think It, I’ll Say It. The focus is majorly female which stories examining one-night-stands, early motherhood, the fraught nature of adolescent female interactions and adultery. Each story serves a purpose, rounding out with a kernel of discovery that both challenges and enlightens the reader—providing a unique sense of vindication in uncovering the motives behind the characters suspicious, questionable, or, to be honest, wholly relatable, actions.

In Vox Clamantis in Deserto we meet a college freshman who is on the cusp of young womanhood and becomes enthralled with one particular peer who seems to embody many of the ideals that serve as Dana’s source of insecurity. They become friends but when Dana acts on a fleeting emotion she is forced to examine that decision and what she learns serves to illuminate her future path which begins to turn in the direction it was intended.

I would be easy for me to be horrified by who I was more than twenty years ago, how ignorant, but I don’t see what purpose that would serve. I’m relieved to has aged out of that visceral sense that my primary obligation is to be pretty, relieved to work at a job that allows me to feel useful. Did I used to think being pretty was my primary obligation because I was in some way delusional? Or was it that I’d absorbed the messages I was meant to absorb with the same diligence with which I studied?

In Regular Couple we meet a couple whose honeymoon was crashed by the appearance one of Maggie’s adolescent rivals—a discontent born of a mixture of jealousy and an irritating interaction in the girls locker room. Obligated, as a result of curiosity and social convention, to spend the next day on a couples outing, Maggie is forced to examine herself in relation to Ashley both as the people they were in high school and who they have now become. What she discovers is surprising and less satisfactory than she anticipated.

“We were all so insecure, right? It was like this seething mass of hormones and nervousness.”
I said, “You never seemed like a particularly nervous person.”
She turned her head, smiling. “Yeah, well, I played it cool, but I threw up every morning before school for most of freshman year.”
Was she serious? If so, this would have once been a fascinating tidbit, it would have forced me to reexamine my entire worldview, but what was I supposed to do with it now?

In The Prairie Wife, past and present collide in yet another thought-provoking way as Kristen follows the online presence of a past friend whose current persona as a Christian, homemaker, wife and wholesome women clashes with the person Kristen spent her days with as a camp counselor. However, when Lucy provides a look into her personal life in a very public way, Kristen is both relieved in the honesty and disappointed at the loss of the superior feeling she clung to as knowing a dark secret about someone in the public eye: a phenomenon that is unique to the climate social media provides. This blast from the past allows Kristen to evaluate her current state in life and to reevaluate her priorities.

Kristen thinks of Lucy at the camp-counselor orientation in 1994, and the she thinks, What if Lucy isn’t a greedy, phony hypocrite? What if she’s still herself, as surprised by the turns her life has taken as Kristen sometimes is by hers?

Though each story is separate and immersive in their own way, the collection as a whole maintains a cohesive thread that solidifies the style and feel that is Sittenfeld’s signature. Above all, her ability to challenge popular opinion and society-bred expectations by revealing in each story a unique and surprising twist makes this collection an entertaining and evocative look into oneself and humanity as a whole.

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I review copy of this title was provided by Random House

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