E.E. Ottoman’s The Companion is the most ‘no plot, just vibes’ book I’ve read lately. I loved the vibes, but the lack of plot really holds the book back.
Madeline Slaughter has given up on being accepted by the New York literary establishment. Burned out, she travels upstate, where the bestselling novelist Victor Hallowell has offered her a sanctuary. Victor’s neighbor is Audrey Coffin, with whom Victor has a past, and with whom Madeline would like to have a future – but maybe she’d like Victor in that future, as well?
There is minimal conflict here. Madeline doesn’t feel she could write the story she wanted to tell; she writes it. Audrey and Victor are on the outs but they move through it. Madeline is in insta-love with both of them. I did not detect any urgency in this book.
On the other hand, urgency isn’t the author’s intent: peace is. Trans women Audrey and Madeline, and trans man Victor, have been hurt, excluded, and invalidated by the outside world. The setting isn’t just their refuge – it’ll pull you in and be yours, as well. Life in upstate rural New York, from Audrey’s farm work to the evenings in Victor’s home, are developed in cozy, softly-lit autumnal detail, like a hand-tinted photograph. If you’re into ‘Miss Honey’s cottage in Roald Dahl’s Matilda, but make it American’, then this is your vibe.
There’s a lot of sex here, but it’s steamy rather than spicy. The writing is full of elisions of the ‘he stroked her’ variety. On the whole, the sex scenes suffer from the rushed and superficial relationship building (there are time skips after which the characters assert new feelings but I could not substantiate them).
Ottoman delivers on his intent, which is to provide what the characters themselves state is needed: a happy and safe story for trans, queer, and poly people. I just wish The Companion had come with a plot that was as strong as the setting.
Buy it at: Amazon or your local bookshop
Visit our Amazon Storefront
I'm a history geek and educator, and I've lived in five different countries in North America, Asia, and Europe. In addition to the usual subgenres, I'm partial to YA, Sci-fi/Fantasy, and graphic novels. I love to cook.