For Chloe, it was enough. More than enough. So she packs her bags and heads for the bus station, headed for who-knows-where and who-knows-what. Where turns out to be Arizona, and what turns out to be a liberating journey of self discovery and the realization that freedom has as many risks as it does rewards. As Chloe's story unfolds in Victoria Lipman's beautifully written and wonderfully entertaining debut novel, it becomes clear that leaving Alva is not only the best thing Chloe could do, it's the only thing she could do.
After a warped childhood of emotional deprivation, of being lonely, friendless, and motherless, Chloe wants only to feel loved. So when Alva comes along -- steady, kind, approving -- he seems to her a sanctuary, a rock-steady place where she can anchor and feel safe. But marriage proves to be a dead end rather than an escape, a safety net that turns into a trap. Quite simply, Alva loves Chloe too much, with love constant and unqualified -- and suffocating.
So she takes off for the Greyhound bus station, leaving behind a note telling Alva that he deserves better. Her only priorities in picking a destination: no place cold or states with a North or South in their names. She settles on Phoenix, buys a one-way ticket, says good-bye to one life, and anxiously anticipates the new one. Her seatmate is Zeno, an outrageous, impulsive, and hugely selfish woman who charms Chloe with exotic tales of her past, present, and future. After Alva, the freedom Zeno represents is pure intoxication, so she accepts the invitation to stay in Phoenix with Zeno and her aunt Ethel.
Despite the sense of freedom that comes with leaving Alva, Chloe still doesn't feel entirely at home with these two strange women. Ethel, who owns and runs a small flower shop, is the fattest woman Chloe has ever seen. And Zeno -- well, she's just plain odd.
Finally it's enough to send Chloe back on the road, only this time she's more confused than ever about who she is, where she's going, and what she wants to find once she gets there. But at least she is free to take this journey, and what a trip it is -- funny, moving, filled with wonderful characters and stark, stunning insights.
And what does Chloe find? Well, for one thing she comes to realize that in real life you can go home again, but you just may not want to...