How Could She

  • Review
By – September 2, 2019

At first glance, Lau­ren Mechling’s new book, How Could She, has a sim­ple premise akin to Sex and the City — three women in New York nav­i­gat­ing the worlds of work, romance, and friend­ship. But these char­ac­ters are more nuanced and sharply drawn. The nov­el begins with thir­ty-six-year-old Geral­dine, who is liv­ing with a revolv­ing door of room­mates in her home­town of Toron­to and is still depressed after call­ing off her engage­ment four years ear­li­er. A sud­den burst of inspi­ra­tion leads her to quit her dull mag­a­zine job and try her luck in New York, where she recon­nects with her old col­leagues, Sun­ny and Rachel.

Mech­ling, a jour­nal­ist and the cre­ator of the pop­u­lar Insta­gram account Clog Life,” has a keen under­stand­ing of female friend­ships. Geral­dine, Sun­ny and Rachel have known each oth­er for over a decade and are ful­ly aware of each other’s flaws — but that doesn’t mean they always know how to relate to each oth­er. As Geraldine’s star ris­es, the friend­ships between the three women become more strained.

In the begin­ning, Sun­ny appears to be the most togeth­er” of the three as a semi-suc­cess­ful illus­tra­tor liv­ing a com­fort­able life with her old­er, wealthy hus­band. But this belies her real­i­ty. Sun­ny describes her­self as a sim­u­lacrum” of an artist, and her husband’s wealth means her job is nev­er deemed as impor­tant as his. She also doesn’t seem to know how to be a good friend, as Geral­dine tells her at one point, Even if you’re try­ing to be nice, it can be painful to be around you.” Sun­ny com­pounds the prob­lem with ill-advised choic­es when it comes to men, betray­ing Rachel and Geraldine’s trust in the process.

Near­ly all of the roman­tic rela­tion­ships por­trayed in the book have con­se­quences for the women’s careers and friend­ships — although the same does not seem to apply to the men they are involved with. Geraldine’s phi­lan­der­ing ex-fiancé, anoth­er wealthy man, writes her long emails after she moves to New York, threat­en­ing to pull her away from her new­found career suc­cess. Even Rachel, who we are led to believe has a good mar­riage, is com­pelled to com­pro­mise her own desires when her hus­band is offered a new oppor­tu­ni­ty. It seems as though the choice should be a no-brain­er, as it will give her the free­dom to pur­sue writ­ing full-time. How­ev­er, Mech­ling sug­gests that although this is a priv­i­leged choice, it was the far­thest thing from Rachel’s mind — and she feels guilty for express­ing her unhappiness.

In a cli­mac­tic moment, Sun­ny says to the oth­er two, Are we ever going to get to a point where we can just be? Where we’re not a group of women bear­ing grudges and siz­ing our­selves up against one anoth­er?” The women are undoubt­ed­ly priv­i­leged, but they only seem to use it to pick at each other.

Discussion Questions