Synopses & Reviews
Fiction. A series of fragmentary tales tells the story of Lizzie, a young woman who, in her early twenties, unexpectedly embarks on a journey through psychiatric institutions, a journey that will end up lasting many years. With echoes of Sylvia Plath, and against a cultural backdrop that includes Shakespeare, Woody Allen, and Heathers, Suzanne Scanlon's first novel is both a deeply moving account of a life of crisis and a brilliantly original work of art.
"Suzanne Scanlon enters the inverted space of grief and near-madness with courage, intelligence, and wit—and with a small, sharp light for us to follow."—Dawn Raffel
"About ten lives occur in this very short novel. One swiftly becomes the background of the next, then that one looms up fast and for a moment you think oh this is the life. And it is ending. I like the swift consciousness with which Suzanne Scanlon orchestrates all of it and even more I admire the true (and maneuvered) intimacy that holds me here on the page despite the fact that inside and out of this volume of PROMISING YOUNG WOMEN there are so many of us, lives, and women and female writers. You wonder if we matter at all and Suzanne Scanlon says in a multitude of quietly intelligent and felt ways that we do, helplessly, all of us do, no matter."—Eileen Myles
"In pitch-perfect prose, Suzanne Scanlon has given us wonderful Lizzie—smart, brave, and, at the same time, so scared stiff by her young life that that she winds up on a psych ward run by Dr. Roger, whose specialty is 'troubled, pretty girls.' PROMISING YOUNG WOMEN digs deep and speaks to us all about how we compose our individual lives in the wilds of modern times."—Elizabeth Evans
"If Scanlon had employed the strategies of conventional realism, these troubling but utterly convincing stories of life in and out of psych wards would be mere bathos. Written through the liveliest sort of formal invention, they acquire real force and authority. The reader is driven before the story like something driven before a wave. And that is a deeply pleasurable feeling."—Curtis White
"The voice, or voices, in Suzanne Scanlon's PROMISING YOUNG WOMEN are sly, tragic, knowing, wounded, and brave. This wholly original novel is a wonderfully refreshing addition to the many stories that tell us the news of women's grief, rebuilding, coming to terms."—Mary Gordon
"The promise of the young women of this debut novel-in-fragments has little to do with education or career; it's that, despite their diagnosis as 'Hypervigilants/Super-Sensitives,' they might get better and get out of mental hospitals. But before that, there's life on the ward (and snippets of life before and after), as reported by our guide, Lizzie, both of the 'Long Term Ward' and not of it: a 'Classic Depressive,' she's tried to kill herself, but having recognized the dangerously seductive quality of the 'liminal state' of mental illness and the risk of becoming a 'career patient,' she somehow makes it to the other side. We don't hear much about how she does that, although Lizzie's self-awareness is clearly part of it. Scanlon, an actress and academic, is more interested in depicting the way the drugs get stronger, time elapses, and a young, bright female, a cutter, a burner, a binger, anorexic, or screaming or refusing to talk, starts to think of herself as 'sick or mad or mentally ill.' Lizzie's likable, as are her wised-up fellow passengers on what they call the S.S. Roger and if we're less invested in her and more in the depiction of this specifically female milieu where having read Sylvia Plath and Girl Interrupted doesn't protect against the effects of 'complicated grief' or its cure, that may be Scanlon's intent. Agent: Malaga Baldi, the Baldi Agency." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Suzanne Scanlon's writing has appeared in The Iowa Review, The American Scholar, DIAGRAM, and many other places. She has worked as an actress in New York and, more recently, in Chicago, where she now lives.