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‘How it Works Out’ Imagines Many Madcap Alternate Universes of Queer Love

The first thing I noticed when I got a galley of Myriam Lacroix’s debut book (novel?) How It Works Out was that one of the protagonists was named after her. The second thing was that the other protagonist, Allison, was also the person named in the dedication, which read: “To Allison, I figured it out. I know how it works out.”

So this is a work of fiction, only kind of. The names are all the same. The dedication features a pretty direct confession of the fact that this is a story about real lovers. The story blurs the lines between story and reality through a series of short stories that all link together in some ways, their slates wiped clean in others. Some of the stories are third person, others are first person, switching off between Allison’s point of view and Myriam’s. A lot of it feels like an experimental journal of Myriam’s ideas of their relationship. It feels apt, if not totally obvious, to compare it to Everything, Everywhere, All At Once. It’s not so explicit that they are trying to solve their relationship questions in every universe as it is in the film, but once you fall into the cadence of the absurdity and the surrealism, you don’t need to question the physics of the story so much. Yes of course, Myriam is a cannibal of Allison’s flesh, and yes of course, she secretly drinks the breast milk Allison pumps to feed their baby, then fills it with water and formula like a curious teenager. Why should I question that when, just a chapter ago, they found that baby in an alley and then had to hide from said baby’s homophobic birth mom when she came knocking? And, well, now that we’re accepting cannibalism, can’t we accept anything? Lesbian co-authors of a gay self-help bestseller throwing a wedding where in attendance were Tegan and Sara, but also a reporter from Autostraddle?

But within the set changes were pieces of a full story. In one story, the two of them, fresh off of a fight, get roped into running a couple’s half marathon with another lesbian couple named Meg and Megan, one of whom is Myriam’s ex. In another story, Allison feels burdened by Myriam’s intense food obsession, until Myriam dies in the hospital from a reaction to something she ate, and, her side of the street now clean, Allison falls in love with the doctor. It so clearly feels like a fantasy that Lacroix suggests her partner having of her death. Some of these portraits feel so intimate, especially because of the autobiography of it all, that I feel like I shouldn’t be reading it. And yet I am. I can’t stop reading it. I am rooting for them to leave each other, and I am rooting for them to figure it out.

The prose is brilliant. It’s sophisticated and smart, and at the same time, it melts on the tongue like candy and is quick to digest. I was half sad this was a debut because I wanted there to be more. I will say, because the reader is keeping track of the details of a dozen realities at once, there are undeniably details I will pick up on the re-read. And that, to me, is not a bug, but a feature. The book manages to be very covertly dense in material, while tugging the reader along by the sleeve. Lacroix did her MFA at Syracuse. One of her professors, George Saunders, wrote a blurb for the book. While I, myself, have never been a student at Syracuse, I have read Saunders’ newsletter, as well as his book on craft, A Swim in a Pond in the Rain, and I found it interesting to try to identify some of his public writing lessons in her text. That’s probably really annoying of me.

By the way, I alluded to this earlier, but I’m not actually sure if this counts as a novel. I tried to look through the marketing materials, and it is called “fiction” in some places, but mostly, it’s called a “debut.” It’s kind of a short story collection, it’s kind of a series of personal essays. I couldn’t find anywhere where Myriam Lacroix was called a novelist, or her book a novel. I wondered if this was on purpose because I actually find this to be one of the most fascinating things about the book. It feels like an invite for the reader to assume. To guess which parts are real and which parts are imagined. It’s a gorgeous, speculative exercise in romance that’s as bound together as it is fragmented. I predict her style of writing will inspire imitations of this surreal, broken, sewn together tapestry of a story, told deliberately and nonsensically.

How It Works Out by Myriam Lacroix is out now.

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Aamina Inayat Khan

Aamina Inayat Khan is a culture writer in Brooklyn, NY. You can find their other work at Teen Vogue, Vogue, the Cut, W Mag, The New York Times, and on Substack. Follow on Instagram and Twitter at @aaminasdfghjkl

Aamina has written 5 articles for us.

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