The Odyssey

Lara Williams

Book - 2022

"Ingrid works on a gargantuan cruise ship where she spends her days reorganizing the gift shop shelves and waiting for long-term guests to drop dead in the aisles. On her days off, she disembarks from the ship, wasting the hours aimlessly following tourists around, drinking the local alcohol, and buying clothes she never intends to wear. It's not a bad life. At least it distracts her from thinking about the other life--the other person--she left behind five years ago. That is, until the day she is selected by the ship's enigmatic captain and (ill-informed) wabi-sabi devotee, Keith, for his mysterious mentorship program. Encouraging her to reflect on past mistakes and her desperation to remain lost at sea, Keith pushes Ingrid ...further than she ever thought possible. But as her friendships and professional life onboard steadily fall apart, Ingrid must ask herself: how do you know when you have gone too far?" --

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Psychological fiction
New York : Zando 2022.
Main Author
Lara Williams (author)
Physical Description
232 pages ; 22 cm
Contents unavailable.
Review by Booklist Review

Ingrid works on the WA, a luxury cruise ship with every possible amenity. She's been aboard the WA for five years, rotating between a variety of jobs, and she spends her occasional days of shore leave getting drunk and attempting to seduce random men. Ingrid is working at the gift shop when she receives an invitation to an exclusive mentorship program hosted by the mysterious Keith, whose presence aboard the ship looms large. Ingrid's first meetings with Keith resemble a strange mix of life coaching and therapy, but the program soon becomes cultlike, forcing Ingrid to take action to prove her commitment and loyalty. Her shore-leave experiences become increasingly unhinged, and it is soon apparent that Ingrid has a past she is desperately trying to forget. Williams (Supper Club, 2019) dissects Ingrid's character layer by layer, building the story through a series of tantalizing, frequently bizarre reveals that show exactly how this troubled woman ended up on a cruise ship that, like her, is falling apart. Readers who enjoy Melissa Broder and Ottessa Moshfegh will appreciate this surreal trip through a troubled woman's psyche.

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

A young British woman employed on a surreal cruise ship is at the center of Williams's stylish if cold latest (after Supper Club). The protagonist, Ingrid, is devoted to her work aboard the WA, a gargantuan vessel with a "surf simulator, ice-skating rink, outdoor zip line," and floating restaurant, helmed by the mysterious Keith, a guru-like figure preoccupied by the Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi. Ingrid shuffles through many onboard jobs, from working in a gift shop to the ship's nail salon, and, in the book's final third, to lifeguarding (ironic, since she can't swim). Early on she is inducted into a shadowy inner circle called "the program" in which she meets periodically with Keith to discuss wabi-sabi and recall traumatic memories from her past. Soon, she is promoted to a managerial role, a development that alienates her two closest friends. The prose is generally excellent and occasionally razor-sharp (describing Ingrid's pre-WA void, "The getting never really felt as good as the wanting, but the not-getting felt fucking catastrophic"); unfortunately, the plot is meagre and overly self-conscious. Ingrid belongs to a particular breed of disaffected, Moshfeghian narrator, but here there's more affect than substance. In the end, this feels eccentric for eccentricity's sake. (Apr.)

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Review by Kirkus Book Review

Aboard a luxury cruise ship, a woman is compelled to confront her past--and embrace her flaws. "What you need to understand is that everything is coming out of and going into nothingness. That is the principle of wabi sabi," Ingrid, the protagonist of Williams' peculiar novel, is told by Keith, her boss aboard the vast luxury cruise liner on which she has lived and worked for the past five years, in the book's opening passage. Williams has predicated the book's plot on this idea of inevitable decay and deterioration, the acceptance (even the acceleration) of imperfection--yet elements of the story, like the concept behind it, can be challenging to embrace. For somewhat perplexing reasons, Ingrid has left her cozy bourgeois life with a loyal, loving husband, as well her well-appointed home and all her clothes and belongings, to move, with only the most minimal possessions, into a tiny room on a cruise ship and rotate through menial jobs, such as gift shop worker and manicure parlor manager. When she is at sea and not at work, Ingrid primarily spends her time peering moonily out through the small, sealed porthole in her tiny room or meeting up with her two friends, Mia and Ezra--a sister and brother who also rotate through jobs onboard--to eat bland leftovers in the crew mess, watch old sitcoms, or play Families, a game they've created in which they take turns being the mother, father, or doted-upon baby. "We all agreed being the baby was best," Ingrid narrates. On land, she mostly drinks--a lot--and makes bad decisions. When Keith chooses Ingrid to participate in an eccentric mentoring program, she is forced to reckon with her past missteps, personal shortcomings, and painful losses--and things get really strange, leading to Ingrid's degradation, but also possibly…growth? Williams' engaging novel takes the reader on a memorable journey, but its destination remains disappointingly unclear. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.