Based upon Availability by Alix Strauss

By Alix Strauss

“Like a beautifully-wrapped present field, filled with unforeseen pleasures. Alix Strauss proves herself to be an astute and deeply feeling observer of human nature.”
—Dani Shapiro, writer of Black & White

A beautiful, clever, and witty moment novel from popular development journalist Alix Strauss, Based Upon Availability chisels away on the exteriors of 8 shrewdpermanent and interesting ladies whereas delving deep within to work out what they’re actually made up of. Following her Ingram Award-winning The pleasure of Funerals—named most sensible Debut Novel via The ny ResidentBased Upon Availability is women’s literary fiction at its finest.

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As a baby, I’m told, whenever I couldn’t sleep and would cry nonstop, the only thing that would calm me was the hum our Maytag made. My mother swears she would hold me next to it and stand patiently, waiting for me to be lulled to sleep by its shaking motion and misty heat. I do this now, run an empty cycle. I lean my body up against the metal door, the brace still fitting securely around my body. The gentle vibration feels good on my skin, my insides feel comforted by the heat penetrating through the T-shirt.

When Anne appears, her eyes are red, cheeks blotchy. They match the color in her printed flower dress. She steps toward the mirror, her perfume filling the room. Mascara and eyeliner have left a dark crescent under her lower lids so that she looks like a football player. I’m not supposed to know about her dismissal, so I ask if she’s upset about her bracelet. This only causes her to sob harder. Her face becomes distorted, like she’s having a stroke, and her shoulders shake. Seeing someone fall apart is frightening.

They’re as familiar to me as the conversations that take place in the hotel’s lounge every Wednesday either before or after they’ve played bridge at the club next door. Somehow Midtown Manhattan’s Four Seasons has become a halfway house for wayward Upper East Siders. I smile like a good daughter and fall, rather slip, easily into the role I’m expected to play. I excel at this. My whole family does. By thirty-two, I had assumed a curtain would have dropped, followed by several adoring minutes of applause, and an award would have arrived on my doorstep: Best Acting in a Family Drama.

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