In Kate Christensen’s new novel, one character is as brittle as a glass necklace and another breaks away from the confines of her marriage, eventually exploring and rediscovering her dormant and quiescent sexuality. Josie and Raquel have an almost perfect friendship that ebbs and flows, at times gaining enough momentum to spin them out of the orbits that they've committed to over the years.
Although she’s the last to admit it, Raquel is desperate, almost begging her friend to come down to Mexico City where they “can drink tequila, go dancing and breathe in all of the incessant pollution.” A famous rock star with a new album on the way
- hopefully her big comeback - Raquel is in deep trouble, caught up in a sleazy tabloid scandal involving an up-and-coming
young actor and his pregnant girlfriend.
Josie, meanwhile, has decided to end her years-long marriage to Anthony, a brilliant but uncommunicative professor of political science. Once dynamic and passionate, Anthony is strangely detached and quite accepting of Josie’s decision to leave. Even Wendy, Josie’s Chinese-born teenage daughter, is emotionally distant, far from the warm daughter that she wishes she had.
For the first time in ten years, Josie feels “loose and wild and punchy,” her life suddenly filled with the inveterate thrill of being a mid-forties single girl. Thus the dismantling of Josie’s marriage begins, and she impulsively travels to Mexico City, the trip a chance for her to see outside the light, color, life and freedom, “a bubble of excitement encased in an obdurate thrill of dread.”
There is another friend - Indriana, a trust fund girl who remains behind in Manhattan and moves in and out of the tale, yet much of the story covers Raquel’s need for Josie and Josie’s struggle against the odds to capture the one constant in her life: letting go of her life with Anthony. To Josie, Raquel’s existence is rich and interesting, but it
is also more complicated and painful than most. It’s still shocking, however, when some surprise revelations of Raquel’s threaten to throw the trip into chaos.
Although Raquel’s pretentious self-involvement and her “I’ll be damned if I do” attitude is sometimes irritating, the novel’s charm mostly comes from Josie and her reaction to the world around her as she eventually falls into a hot affair with the sexy Felipe. Josie is suddenly caught off guard
by her easy desire for this struggling young artist ,and in the end is totally flummoxed by just how much she really likes him.
Trouble lacks much of the mordant wit of Christensen’s previous works, yet the author’s prose always feels vibrant and alive as she brings to life the messy and esoteric landscapes of Mexico City, its cosmopolitan suburbs and passionate people. While Forster’s A Passage to India symbolically couches the novel, much of the burdens of the drama come from Josie’s midlife crisis, her sense of newfound freedom, and the desperate lengths she goes to help her best friend in her frantic hour of need.