Premier Escorts is the scene of this bizarre and fascinating tale of good women gone not-so-good. Roxanne, a former New Yorker, is the receptionist, fielding calls from men who wish to date one escort or another, depending on their preferences. Owned by a frantic Arab who is also an imported rug merchant and restaurateur, Roxanne is the most reliable employee Premier Escorts has ever had.
In the heartland of LDS country in Utah, sandwiched between two other venues, the escort service consists of one small room with a dilapidated television and a changing room that also features a tanning bed, so that the ladies always look their best.
So far Roxanne (or Jane, her real name) hasn’t crossed the line and become an escort. But mired in the emotional vacuum of a generally directionless life, the thirty-year-old is balancing on the cusp, flirting with imagined carefree encounters, albeit laced with inherent dangers: “I marvel at the escort’s courage to face down another hotel room door.”
Jane is popular with the girls and has a great deal of empathy with their lot in life, as well as many of the regular customers. At the same time, she is conducting a long-distance relationship with a former lover, who calls in the afternoons to discuss his current love life. Jane is chronically co-dependent, allowing another ex-boyfriend, Ford, to use her apartment as a crash pad whenever he is in town.
On his most recent visit, Ford has brought along his lover-of-the-moment - Ember, a free-spirited, cocaine-sniffing party girl - who is fascinated by Jane’s job and decides to sample the exciting life of the outcall hostess. Her days befuddled by the moral ambiguity of her job and an increasingly unsettled and crowded home life, Jane quickly spirals out of control.
At times the novel takes comic turns, but at others, even the light-hearted banter cannot disguise the hopelessness of a downward-drifting lifestyle; the next step for outcall failures is dancing at a local strip club. The author peels away the layers of the escort service industry, avoiding the more venal aspects through license technicalities (although there are hints that some girls take their duties much farther), the particular personalities drawn to this netherworld, and the human side of such an existence.
Courting the chaos of a confused identity, low self-esteem and lack of direction, Jane/Roxanne experiments at her peril, too often crossing the boundaries of good judgment and healthy self-preservation. Ember serves as the catalyst for the destruction of the romance and the friendship, leaving Ford and Jane reeling in her wake, a shocking reminder how quickly events can turn life-threatening.
This novel might have had more punch without the almost-happy ending. Overall, Calling Out is instructive and insightful, Meadows a fresh and interesting voice on the scene of life in the frontiers of faith and decadence.