Published by Harper
Publication date: November 27, 2018
Genres: Contemporary, Fiction
I’d prefer not to end a strong reading week on a negative note, but have you ever read a book that feels like a case of false advertising? As in, if you had paid for it you would have demanded a full refund? That’s how I feel about Come With Me. Here’s the Goodreads synopsis:
Amy Reed works part-time as a PR person for a tech start-up, run by her college roommate’s nineteen-year-old son, in Palo Alto, California. Donny is a baby genius, a junior at Stanford in his spare time. His play for fortune is an algorithm that may allow people access to their “multiverses”—all the planes on which their alternative life choices can be played out simultaneously—to see how the decisions they’ve made have shaped their lives.
Donny wants Amy to be his guinea pig. And even as she questions Donny’s theories and motives, Amy finds herself unable to resist the lure of the road(s) not taken. Who would she be if she had made different choices, loved different people? Where would she be now?
Interesting, right? Except there’s a subplot about Amy’s unemployed journalist husband and his decision to take off for Japan to interview the most radioactive human on the planet—which is just a cover to be alone with a beautiful transgender woman he thinks he’s in love with. The husband’s plot plays out in tedious, unimaginative detail while the entire premise of an app that allows you to explore the lives you didn’t live? That’s explored in two brief chapters where the developer, who reads like a stereotypical, techie, man-boy, psychologically tortures Amy with an app that doesn’t work properly.
I kept going with this book despite characters who were so off-the-charts in their self-indulgent, precious uniqueness as to be violently annoying (a teenager so in love with his girlfriend that they are on Skype 24 hours a day—he brings her to school on his phone and they set a place for her at the dinner table). Up until the midpoint, I thought there would be redemption—that something discovered from the app would bring profound meaning to Amy’s life. Instead, a painful and tragic incident appears out of nowhere—as if Schulman thinks it will redeem the book—and turns the last quarter of the novel into a theater of the absurd. I finished Come With Me as a hate read, which is unfortunate because Helen Schulman’s last novel, This Beautiful Life, was impactful and thought provoking.