This one is a quiet burn, the kind of novel that leads to a swell of deep and intense emotion at the end. You’re left, Reader, with a sense of loss at the end, a feeling that you’ve experienced something very intimate, that maybe you shouldn’t have, but you had to — and you did — and now you’re left to think about the memory of the novel. They’re Going to Love You sticks in your mind like taffy to the roof of your mouth, a lingering taste of sweet and salty. Maybe a little sour.
They’re Going to Love You is a story about parenting, being a child, being a child to parents who are human and flawed. It is also a story about the fragility of relationships and the unpredictable strength of them. It’s a story about the trials of family, the values that are assumed in a family unit, assumed because of blood and marriage and birth. It is also a story of betrayal and grief, of not having what we assume we should have or of losing what we felt we should never have been able to lose.
The novel revolves around and is narrated through the eyes of a young girl who becomes a young woman and then a middle aged woman. She is a dancer and the daughter of dancers, ballet dancers in the heady and chaotic New York city scene of the mid-twentieth century. The father is a gay man, openly so, and there is a step-father. Then there is her mother, a former ballerina. The parents expect a lot from the girl. This is a story about expectations and hopes and dreams that are ours and also, not our own.
As the girl grows up there are things she learns about her privileged life and the expectations of her privileged life and the ways in which people look at her from outside her life. She learns about love from her parents and from their divorce and from their forced interactions on her account. She learns about love from her father’s gay friends. She learns about betrayal from her parents and what it means to forgive.
The novel is also about death and the finiteness of this life and of love. It is about realities underlying the fantasy of a ballet-infused, performed life.
Howrey’s prose is stark and cutting. It is dark and yet also childish, implying childhood is in fact a darker space and time than we are often led to believe. The characters are children and adults and you are not sure who is the adult and who is the child sometimes. The dialogue is authentic, sometimes painfully so, too reminiscent of our own familial traumas.
There is an element of this book that prickled me, for as much as I praise it: the characters are insufferably privileged. They are white, wealthy, part of the exclusive milieu of pretentious NYC. The main character is a nepo baby, whether she thinks so or not. So is her father. Intergenerational privilege abounds in this novel. This is a world that exists for a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of the world’s population. It’s not my world, for sure.
But, that is what novels are for (in part): entries into worlds unknown.