"A novel about Maya, a young woman with a smart mouth, time to kill, and a heroin hobby that isn't much fun anymore. Maya's been able to get by in New York on her wits and a dead-end bookstore job for years, but when her husband leaves her and her favorite professor ends their affair, her barely-calibrated life descends into chaos."
A novel about a heroin addict shouldn’t be this much fun to read ... Sharma counteracts these dark problems with Maya’s funny, quirky, clever narrative style ... if you’re going to write a novel of thoughts, this is how to do it ... The book’s vulgarity is deeply and powerfully feminist.
Problems is hypnotic and dank, an intimate gurgle from a person to whom you have become so endeared you decode it. And you know it’s beautiful ... Sharma gives readers the chance to dwell in the confrontational hailstorm that is Maya’s inner life, the thoughts she thinks that she can’t allow to escape her, in which she inadvertently reveals to herself what her problems really are ... a powerful, pitiless, razor-sharp ally that readers can take with them as they move through this fucked up world.
It’s a law of 'addiction lit' that what gets high must come crashing down, and stories like this that begin at a low point find a lower one. The turns are all here: rehab, relapse, recovery. The first two are handled with verve. The third is done in the second person, future tense—a voice I only want to hear on the hypnotist’s couch, and even there I find it ineffective. These final few passages are meant perhaps to subvert the inspirational mode, the message that when it can’t get worse it gets better, but Sharma sounds bored by her own discovery, which is that wellness is as repetitive as addiction ... A better idea, in Problems, is the late embrace of pain as a side effect of living.