Synopses & Reviews
A sharply humorous, fast-paced debut novel about the effects—some predictable, some wildly unexpected—that an encounter at gunpoint can have on the life of a (previously) assured young woman.
The gun in question is pointed at twenty-one-year-old Ellis as she walks through a New York City park. In the end she is unrobbed and physically unharmed. But she is left psychologically reeling.
Over the next few weeks Ellis keeps everyone at bay: the police, the men who want to save her (“the ROTC boy” poet and “the red-faced representative of the world”), and the university therapist who hints that her sweaters may be too tight. But when Ellis accompanies her mother, a nurse, on a mission to the Philippines, she finds that life—even if held up—cannot be held back, and neither, finally, can she.
"Richly drawn, unpredictable, and wryly funny, Vida's debut is dazzling. Manhattan both people and place are rendered with rare authenticity. Highly recommended..." Library Journal
"At fewer than 200 pages, And Now You Can Go has more of the tease of the novella than the satisfying whump of the novel. Vida's next project could well be more ambitious she has earned it." Ruth Franklin, The Washington Post
"Steeped in her wild cynicism, [Ellis] also finds the grace to reach beyond herself, and that surprising combination is what makes this first novel unforgettable." Hazel Rochman, Booklist
"It's a good thing Vida makes her fiction debut with this novel instead of a story collection: she takes getting used to, but it's worthwhile....Hilarious and touching, icily removed, yet bracingly real." Kirkus Reviews
"The end, unfortunately, arrives just as the book began abruptly and the reader longs for something more. Nevertheless, this remains an intriguing and auspicious debut." Publishers Weekly
"Vendela Vida's novel is a gift to the reader, a story that contains what I love best about fiction: an idiosyncratic voice, keenly observed gestures, intelligence and heart, and both large and small moments that reverberate in unpredictable ways." Amy Tan, author of The Bonesetter's Daughter
"And Now You Can Go's narrator is a cool customer, drifting through a world of violence and charity and screwed-up suitors. But she's ever ready to do something generous, something noble, something stamped with grace." David Schickler, author of Kissing in Manhattan
"And Now You Can Go is so fast, so mesmerizing to read, and so accomplished that it's hard to think of it as a first novel, which it is Vendela Vida has promise to spare." Joan Didion
"An existential Perils-of-Pauline: A young woman is robbed at gun point! of her ability to feel. Whether or not she can learn anew how to love is the question at the heart of this wonderful new novel. Comedic yet serious, minimalist yet lush this is an exciting debut." Jonathan Ames, author of The Extra Man
"Vendela Vida's first novel defies expectations in virtually every way; what looks be a tale of psychological trauma, or even revenge, evolves into something much rarer in contemporary fiction: a joyful investigation of the pleasures of living. And Now You Can Go is beguiling, celebratory, and faintly mysterious." Jennifer Egan
"As Ellis gradually returns to life, her unadorned narration is honest, quirky, and surprisingly compelling." Emily Mead, Entertainment Weekly
"Vida... creates a complex but sympathetic heroine on a voyage and entices you to follow." Clea Simon, The Boston Phoenix
"The novel is an impressive accomplishment. Ellis' voice completely convinces and enthralls, making And Now You Can Go succeed in a way few narrative-driven novels can." Erik Henriksen, The Portland Mercury
"Subtle and psychologically acute, And Now You Can Go is a story that captures the way life resists being turned into neat narrative." Michelle Goldberg, Newsday
About the Author
Vendela Vida's first book, Girls on the Verge, grew out of her M.F.A. thesis at Columbia University. She is co-editor of The Believer magazine, and lives in Northern California with her husband. This is her first novel.
Q: In your novel, theres a character called the R.O.T.C. boy, who puts tacks in his face to, as he explains it, "Show his devotion" to Ellis, the narrator. Please tell me you dont know anyone like this.
A: When I was much younger, I knew a guy who...well, lets just say he was capable of that kind of thing. He was nice enough, but I do occasionally think about him now and worry. I hope hes resting comfortably, wherever he is, and hope he doesnt mind my borrowing that detail from him.
Q: The action of the book begins on the first page when Ellis is held captive in Riverside Park by a man with a gun. How did you decide to structure the novel that way?
A: I read a lot of plays Ibsen and Strindbergs in particular because I love the way plays seem to begin at the last possible moment. Thats why, in some ways, this book reads like a play everything is set in motion by the first encounter, when things fall apart, and after that, its about how things fall back into order.
Q: The book is about Elliss life being threatened by a stranger, but its also about how the people around Ellis react to whats happened to her. We expect it to be about how she personally deals with the trauma, but its just as much about how a small community of people deals with it, isnt it?
A: Its how young people in New York deal with it too which is different from what might happen in other places. Theres that sense that something like the hold-up at gunpoint that Ellis experiences is eventually bound to happen, and that it might be your own fault if it does. So Ellis gets an education about the strengths of the people around her, or the lack thereof, and about their assumptions and actions when pushed into a corner. In that way its about the social fabric, but its also about rage, which is the most common sort of tear in that fabric. In many ways, I think this novel is about the way everyone you, me, Ellis, other characters in the book thrusts their rage, whatever its source, on others and how they deal with the rage thrust upon them by others. I think well, I hope some of the humor in the book comes from the discrepancy between what we want and what we ask for. I guess I didnt make it sound funny just now, but I swear it is!
Q: Tell us about Ellis.
A: Ellis is the daughter of immigrants, her father Polish and her mother Italian. Her mother always imagined that when she came to the United States shed land first on Ellis Island and blow the Statue of Liberty a kiss. Instead when she finally arrived, she landed in Honolulu. Thus her first daughter became Ellis. And her parents being so newly American has a lot to do with her own personality. I have a surprising number of first-generation American friends whose parents are from Cuba, Mexico, Norway, or Ethiopia. A lot of them shunned their parents advice when they were younger because they felt that their experiences were, well, foreign, and therefore irrelevant. As they get older, though, they find themselves embracing their parents cultures and wisdom. And Ellis is on the cusp of that realization.
Q: Halfway through the book, Ellis leaves on a medical mission to the Philippines. How did you decide to take the book there?
A: I wrote the book without an outline and without really knowing what would happen next. In a way, I wanted to live it as Ellis was living it. When I got halfway through, though, I thought: Okay, now what?
I live in Northern California, where theres a large Filipino population, and Ive met a few Filipino doctors and nurses who return to the Philippines every year to offer free medical help. Some of the most needed procedures because of the Philippines proximity to the equator and the deficit of sunglasses are cataract operations. So Ellis goes with her mother, a nurse, to reflect, to defrost, and...please save me from making some awful allusions to sight, regaining it, etc.
Q: What writers or books influenced you in writing And Now You Can Go?
A: When I look back at the writers who Ive read most thoroughly, Im pretty surprised myself. Why have I read everything Philip Roths done, for example? Its hard to pin down my appreciation, and its harder to see whether or not hes been an influence. But I do love his anger, and how quickly and effortlessly it can turn hilarious. But I was also rediscovering Mary Robison while writing this book, and her work probably rubbed off on me in various ways.
Q: Naturally, because the gun scene and the events thereafter seem so real even the absurdity of events in the wake of the assault is perfect people will ask if this is based on real events. Is it?
A: Well, I lived in New York for eight years. If you take enough walks in the park, especially pre-Giuliani, chances are you might have an experience or two. I guess Ill leave it at that.