I finished Swan Huntley’s We Could Be Beautiful about two weeks ago and have struggled to even figure out how I feel about it since then. It is difficult to muster up a ton of empathy for the 1%-ers, I mean how grim can life be when you get an $80,000 allowance per month? Per month. Like, every month, girlfriend gets $80K. I get that could be annoying to have to spend, but I feel like I could manage it, if challenged. Anyway, Catherine West, our fragile trust fund leading lady, is faced with this trying task.
Catherine owns a beautiful apartment in Manhattan, buys a lot of things to fill the empty spaces in her soul, and of course owns a boutique to prove that she has accomplished something. This store sells… greeting cards. Okay. She doesn’t actually work there, of course, because she has a very busy life working out with her trainer and getting more massages over the span of this book than I have ever seen in my life. She has a sister she cannot stand and a mother with dementia, and her boyfriend has just left her to marry an older woman. As we begin our story, she is struggling with being alone until she meets the perfect man, William Stockton, who immediately gives me the creeps because I am a cynical worrier. He is great on paper, and they even knew each other when they were young, as their families were friends, but like the man in any other book written after 2010, he is terrible.
As Catherine and William get closer, she starts to get strange warnings from her mother, whose condition makes her very unreliable. She starts to investigate anyway and, once the dirty secrets are out, has to make a decision about what she will do with the information. Should she keep pretending that her life is perfect or deal with the actual imperfections? The stories for each of them go way deeper than I imagined they would and the conclusions were wholly unexpected, in a great way.
The writing in this book is so incredibly passive it is hard to even follow. I have spent three paragraphs telling you how annoying and not relatable the characters are but I have to admit I actually enjoyed the book quite a lot. The self-effacing knowingness of Catherine as a character was kind of hilarious. She’s a nightmare but she knows she’s a nightmare. She constantly checks herself to ensure that what she has said or thought doesn’t make her sound like a sociopath. She doesn’t care if she is a monster, just doesn’t want to sound like a monster, and it made me laugh every time. The tone of this book never falters for a minute, and it was much better than I thought it would be.
We Could Be Beautiful – Grade B-