D.B. Smith, the author of The Inexquisite Eye, exhibits particular skill in defining the dynamics of dysfunction in the American middle-class. Self-obsessed Elissa is one of five siblings in a codependent family of achievers. She is a well-paid attorney who unfortunately works through her constant dissatisfactions within the context of her career. Seen in the bosom of her family, Elissa's behavior is hardly more bizarre than the rest of the family unit. A group of well-educated East Coasters, her siblings and parents have grown accustomed to critiquing every detail of their days, a habit that consistently influences Elissa's self-perception and need for control.
Luckily, Elissa meets Warren Boyd, a young man who offers her not only unconditional acceptance, but a challenge to the status quo of a cautious life. Warren enters like a breath of fresh air, and without him the emotional construct of the story would be unbearable and depressing. But Warren injects hope and possibility into Elissa's life, tossing a lifeline to this floundering young woman. Can Elissa stop thinking about herself long enough to accept Warren's generosity of spirit?
Elissa's world is stunted and insular, potentially fatal flaws, as she is unable to live in the moment. It is Warren who offers redemption from her self-obsession, which leads to Elissa's ultimate dilemma: the pain and joy of everyday interaction, or a constant grieving for imaginary loss. Will her emotional parsimony dictate her future? Is Elissa even capable of sustained growth and interaction with another person?
Warren desires to draw Elissa into a more widened view of the world and offers the opportunity to move beyond the confines of her very structured days. However, Elissa may not be a woman who can tolerate ambiguity. This beautifully crafted novel clearly delineates the difference between the narrow confines of tedium and the willingness to experience change. I keep hoping that Elissa will "do the right thing" as she and Warren come to their denouement. The author's cleverness assures that I am never able to predict the outcome.