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The Affairs of Others by Amy Grace Loyd

I had the pleasure of attending the last IFOA festival featuring former fiction editor at Playboy magazine Amy Grace Loyd. I was instantly taken by how articulate and funny she was. To add to my pleasure, the noted personality at the helm of the interview was no other than one of my favourite authors Margaret Atwood, and they two invariably had a playful banter that seemed to include every topic from sex, Elvis, and getting married in a Vegas chapel.

In her debut novel, Lyod writes about Celia Cassill, a young and recently widowed landlord. After her husbands death Celia purchases a large house in Brooklyn that contains several apartments and rents them. She chooses her tenants carefully to ensure herself a quiet and domesticated life. But when Hope, a charismatic woman of a certain age arrives in the building, things start to change.  She is on the run from her husband’s recent betrayal, and is subletting from Celia’s previous tenant George, who wants to take off for a while to explore new things.

When Amy Grace Loyd read an excerpt from The Affairs Of Others during the IFOA event, it was hard not to be captivated by her prose. There is almost a poetic element in the way she describes grief. In a tactful way, Amy Grace Loyd has managed to create an interplay where privacy and public meet. It feels like a tightrope metaphor for our lives: how we behave in public, good behavior vs. bad, and even the plans we lay out for ourselves that we think will work out a certain way, and instead never do.

The longing Celia has for privacy is a longing we can all relate to. However, our lives are never in complete solitude. And, in this controlled apartment environment, Loyd has brilliantly been able to intertwine the lives of Celia and her neighbours to create a story that shows you just that. Despite her trying to contain herself and keep her memories of her husband in a closet, she finds herself intimately drawn into the tangled life of those around her and rediscovers passion and possibility. All the stories and separate lives of the characters offer vignettes of human behavior and illustrates the complexities of intimacy.

Published by Picador and distributed in Canada by Raincoast Books.