In her novel, The Pull of It, Wendy J. Fox tells the story of Laura, an unemployed young woman from Washington with a husband, Julian, and little girl, Anne, who travels to Turkey on what was meant to be a short, solo vacation to rest and reevaluate her life. What started as a two-week escape from monotony and responsibility soon turns into much more. She “misses” her flight, sells most of her belongings, leaves Istanbul, and finds employment and friendship with a rural inn-keeper named Yasemin in the heart of Anatolia. Laura’s childhood in rural Washington, her failed career and marriage in Seattle, and her new life in Turkey all collide in this insightful novel, creating a world where time is fluid, happiness is fleeting, and love is unsure.
The Pull of It invites the reader into a world that is foreign, but all too familiar. I have never wandered through the hustle and bustle of Istanbul. I have never wrapped a scarf around my head to cover my hair, or stopped mid-sentence to listen to the call to prayer. I have never climbed Mount Erciyes or spoken Turkish. However, I have experienced heartbreak and monotony, I’ve abandoned people I loved, and I’ve felt the overwhelming desire to be anywhere but where I am at this moment. In Laura, Fox creates a character that exemplifies the full potential of the restlessness that, for many, is a fundamental part of the human condition, and in doing so she provides a space for readers to explore the consequences of escape, and to find the people that might pull us back home.
Fox’s style is disjointed and sporadic at times, with no clear line between the past and the present. Fox writes, “I thought of Daniel, our childhood. I thought how it had been too many days since I’d written my daughter.” Laura’s first love, Daniel, all wild and fire, is mentioned in the same breath as her current husband, Julian; her Turkish love interest, Paul; and her daughter. Each person represents a different stage of Laura’s life, but for most of the novel, these different stages are jumbled into one big mess. The most interesting lover is Julian, the father of Laura’s child. Fox writes:
Julian, I’m sure, thought it was something about responsibility. He had a tendency to defer to the trappings of adult life as if there were no other choice. As if there were something like getting past the age of being able to order off the children’s menu, and simply accepting he’d never get to eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in a restaurant again…He styled himself as being in control. When I first met him, I’d liked that.
Using Laura’s love life, Fox illustrates the ever-changing nature of humanity. We fall in love with someone, they change and we change, we fall out of love, we have children anyway, we clean rugs, we clean houses, we track dirt all over the floor, we sleep with strangers, we settle down and maybe find ourselves still sleeping with strangers: “When I married him, I thought my vows would be what tethered me to him. And then when Anne was born, I thought it would be her.” Laura’s search for something, or someone, to tether her is crucial to this novel and provides commentary on the pull that marriage and parenthood can have on our lives and the struggle that we all have to find and maintain human connection. Unable to connect with her husband, brothers, or parents, Laura eventually finds a tether in her daughter and makes changes to create the life that she wants to live without abandoning her daughter like she once did.
The Pull of It draws the reader in and spits them back out into the world, a little unsure and a little restless. Wendy J. Fox has succeeded in creating memorable, supremely real characters and raising important questions in this debut novel, this oddly-timed coming-of-age story, that pushes us and changes us, “like opening an eye” to a world beyond our everyday lives.
The Pull of It, by Wendy J. Fox. Los Angeles, California: Underground Voices, September 2016. 260 pages. $13.99, paper.
Mary Anne Bordonaro studies English with a concentration in Creative Writing at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, South Carolina.