The Fall­back Plan

  • Review
By – March 20, 2012

Esther Kohler, pro­tag­o­nist of Leigh Stein’s The Fall­back Plan, has just grad­u­at­ed from col­lege and moved back home. The dra­ma degree she worked so hard to obtain (even suf­fer­ing a psy­chot­ic break­down in an attempt to become Blanche from A Street­car Named Desire), has yet to help her obtain a real job. When her mom gets Esther a gig babysit­ting a neighbor’s young daugh­ter, Esther is unwit­ting­ly placed in the role of adult,” forced to face some untidy truths about adult life.”

While play­ing babysit­ter to lit­tle May, Esther must also act the part of con­fi­dante to May’s moth­er as she slides into a more com­pli­cat­ed rela­tion­ship with May’s father. As much as Esther wants to grow up” and leave her child­hood home, she also wouldn’t mind a chron­ic ill­ness that would enti­tle me to month­ly checks from the gov­ern­ment, ten­der sym­pa­thy from my loved ones, and a good deal of time in bed…” Walk­ing head-first into the trou­bles of the adults clos­est to her does not exact­ly make Esther run for the hills, but nei­ther does she put up the most valiant of efforts to change her life or any­one else’s. She’s not an unlike­able nar­ra­tor (in fact she’s quite fun­ny, and con­sis­tent­ly self-dep­re­cat­ing), but she’s not out to win any mer­it badges either.

Stein’s book is light-heart­ed, even in its dark­est moments, and often laugh-out-loud fun­ny. Its dual plot line feels unnec­es­sary (a cutesy re-telling of Nar­nia with a baby pan­da meant to rep­re­sent Esther’s own expe­ri­ences), but these sec­tions are easy enough to for­give with­in the larg­er, enter­tain­ing nar­ra­tive. The Fall­back Plan isn’t the most pro­found com­ing-of-age sto­ry ever told, but it remains hon­est throughout.

Read Leigh Stein’s Posts for the Vis­it­ing Scribe

The Diarist

The Ghost

The Come­di­enne

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