The Cost of Living – Deborah Levy

It’s been a minute!

I have come out of hibernation to talk about The Cost of Living, by Deborah Levy (as you may have gathered by the post’s title – it’s late and I couldn’t think of anything pithy). I don’t remember how I learned about this book – I think it was in one of those “best books of the summer lists” and whoever it was that had chosen it raved about Levy’s work so much that I got this and three more of her books.

In The Cost of Living, Levy reflects on the end of her marriage and her attempt to create a new life and normalcy for her and her daughters. Her account is woven through with simple, yet meaningful, stories of encounters with strangers and friends that prompt introspection and foster empathy for and understanding of both herself and others.

The complete disassembling and rebuilding of one’s life seems ripe for drama and garment-rending. But Levy avoids guttural howls of pain, telling her story not from its turbulent center, but at a safe distance. It is gentle and quiet, as told by a person who knows she has not only survived this, but created a comfortable – and comforting – way to live anew. It feels like a peaceful oasis of calm in the current climate of vapid reality show screeching and a president of the United States that lacks both dignity and an indoor voice.

Levy rarely focuses on the details of the marriage itself and if you’re looking for a play-by-play account of a relationship falling apart, you should pick another book. But if what you need this summer is to know that women are strong and resilient, able to walk away from the remains of familiarity and security to find freedom and happiness, to gather around them other strong women and good friends, to process pain and find joy in small things, and to come out the other side a wiser, more fulfilled person, then this book won’t disappoint.

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