From the author of Tampa, a novel set in the near future about a woman who, after running out on her marriage to a megalomaniacal tech company CEO, moves into a trailer park for senior citizens with her aging father and his extremely life-like sex doll.
These days, in certain corners, it’s something akin to a truism that every woman is a warrior, a badass, a queen. It is, for that reason, a profound relief to meet Hazel, the passive, hapless, magnificently abject protagonist of Alissa Nutting’s deranged new comic novel...I loved Hazel immediately, the way I love drunk women who instigate alarmingly personal conversations in bar bathrooms. She is the rare literary heroine in whose company it would be a pleasure to absolutely wreck my life ... Nutting gets enormous mileage out of the labyrinthine ways in which her characters redirect their romantic impulses. And she has a knack for placing moments of tender horror where straightforward affection might otherwise live ... There is no redemptive thesis in Made for Love whatsoever: when Hazel begins to gradually emerge from her chrysalis of pathos and male entrapment, she’s much the worse for what she’s gone through. Even so, the book is a total joyride, dizzying and surprising, like a state-fair roller coaster that makes you queasy for a moment but leaves you euphoric in the end.
...[a] hilarious, madcap novel ... Hazel’s confrontation with her father’s geriatric—but enthusiastic—sexuality is the novel’s great gift. Encounters with parental desire are notoriously, timelessly cringeworthy, but some of us are fated to have more of them than others ... Nutting deftly illustrates the uncanny creep of the technological into the realm of affect, but what’s truly creepy is how ordinary it all comes to seem ... Touchingly, the verisimilitude of these scenes involving her father and Diane lies in the complexity of Hazel’s own feelings. In navigating her manifold, often simultaneous emotional responses—disgust, disapproval, curiosity, pride, annoyance—Nutting lays bare the strange intensity and intimacy of the familial bond ... Like in those triumphant, early escape-from-domesticity novels, Byron is a straightforward scoundrel, and Hazel’s freedom becomes the unassailable good the reader is cheering for, which can get a bit tiresome ... Nutting’s smart, ribald, and hugely entertaining new novel provokes many chuckles. Occasionally, she reaches higher, and grants the reader flashes of something truly great: a striking view of the pathetic, that Gogolian, absurdist sublime.
...the setup, for all its toomuchness, is seeded with promising ideas about intimacy, need, projection, and surveillance. But these ideas are never more interesting than in their first iterations. The novel's opening is satisfying: Hazel and Byron's courtship plays out as a perfect parody of Fifty Shades of Grey, and Nutting mocks wealthy tech culture with scorching glee. But after this sketch of lurid alienation, the rest of the novel relies on the outrage of the premise when it should tease out these conceptual underpinnings. Good satire locates some bone-deep but unarticulated aspect of our human experience and whips the veil off of it when we least expect it. It's like charisma — some inexplicable combination of timing and electricity. Whereas Nutting introduces an ostensibly crazy concept (sex with dolphins!) very plainly at the outset, and then simply shades in the details. Her humor is not antic, mischievous, fleet, or unexpected — just shocking ... Made for Love has a deviant instinct that make it initially captivating — but it doesn't do the necessary other work of a good novel.