Hazel Hayes has a complicated life. She has just arrived in New York from Toronto to complete her graduate studies. On the same day that she finds out she is pregnant by her married advisor, a crazed blonde woman pushes a young girl on to the subway tracks. The next day another act of violence caused by another crazed blonde woman occurs. Then another. Then another. The Blonde fury has arrived and the first world is up in arms.
Well, more than usual.
The plague, which only affects blonde women (natural and dyed in one of Schultz’s more acrobatic attempts to suspend disbelief) is really the background of the story. At the center is Hazel’s precarious position- a Canadian living in the U.S. during an international epidemic, her pregnancy and her relationship with Karl, her professor and later on in the book his wife.
It is written in the first person, addressed to her unborn baby, when she is in her final trimester and sequestered in a lonely cabin in the woods. How she got there is eventually revealed through her dialogue with her baby.
I started out loving this book. Something about the premise and Hazel’s sardonic yet vulnerable voice, her very believable weaknesses and insecurities as well as the nature of her graduate thesis in “Aesthetology” hooked me from the start. And I loved the middle of it too- Hazel’s thwarted attempts to escape from New York back to Canada, her final grueling success after a weeks-long stint in quarantine and her anti-climactic return home. The complicated relationships in this book are between the various females and are drawn with a bit of irony, humanity and satire.
Yet I have a few quibbles. Schultz leaves us hanging about when it comes to Hazel’s best friend, who has clearly undergone some traumatic event. Yet the reader never finds out what has happened to her to make her behavior shift so radically from the person Hazel used to know to the erratic, nervous person she encounters later in the book.
And the conclusion hits like an anvil without much preparation for the reader. One minute we are reading right along with poor Hazel and the next minute it is the acknowledgements page. After such a rich and satisfying ride, being pushed out of the novel so abruptly felt like being pushed off a cliff.