Thank you to Simon & Schuster for sending me an advanced copy of Indestructible Object for an honest review.
From the publisher:
For the past two years, Lee has been laser-focused on two things: her job as a sound tech at a local coffee shop and her podcast “Artists in Love,” which she cohosts with her boyfriend Vincent.
Until he breaks up with her on the air right after graduation.
When their unexpected split, the loss of her job and her parent’s announcement that they’re separating coincide, Lee’s plans, her art and her life are thrown into turmoil. Searching for a new purpose, Lee recruits her old friend Max and new friend Risa to produce a podcast called “Objects of Destruction,” where they investigate whether love actually exists at all.
But the deeper they get into the love stories around them, the more Lee realizes that she’s the one who’s been holding love at arm’s length. And when she starts to fall for Risa, she finds she’ll have to be more honest with herself and the people in her life to create a new love story of her own.
Funny, romantic and heartfelt, this is a story about secrets, lies, friendship, found family, an expired passport, a hidden VHS tape, fried pickles, the weird and wild city of Memphis, and, most of all, love.
I have a very specific post-pandemic daydream, where I’m getting my hair cut for the first time and the stylist gives me stoic warrior nod and says, “You did a pretty good job with this.” pic.twitter.com/O9GAdoidRM
— Mary McCoy (@MaryElMcCoy) March 23, 2021
I wanted to love this book so badly. I mean, that description, right?! Author Mary McCoy presents us with some heady stuff to chew on. Plus, any novel that uses art history as a motif is getting some points in my book. I mean, Indestructible Object is the name of a Man Ray piece. The main character Lee Swan’s parents named her after artist Lee Miller, who was Ray’s lover at one point.
The lazy, hazy southern vibe of Memphis blends so comfortably with the existential ennui Lee is going through in her final summer before university. The supporting cast is wonderful as well. I particularly loved Max’s storyline. It’s a unique, fresh, but real take on parental disapproval post-coming out.
There’s also something particularly moving about watching a child’s parents’ marriage blow up when the child is in, or closer to, adulthood. The idea that a 20-year marriage was a success, even if it is currently ending, is something I think we’re only now starting to talk about.
Indestructible Object is also about found family, which will always hit me in the feels. Lee’s parents have a circle of friends who routinely choose their friendships over romance or biological family. They’ve raised Lee and Max in an “it takes a village” vibe, which hits the spot.
Finally, this last bit is also in my “what doesn’t work” section. Lee is polyamorous and bisexual. The people around her grow to accept that, and she finds love. That is fan-freaking-tastic. We need more queer rep of all kinds. Like, seriously, YAY.
What Doesn’t Work
The overwhelming issue with Indestructible Object that creates practically every other problem I’ll discuss is the pacing. With so many balls in the air, the storyline ends up not juggling them all that well.
Mary McCoy centralizes, then decentralizes underdeveloped romances in favor of (more interesting) family drama. And then rushes to wrap everything up in a tidy bow at the end. It’s just not satisfying.
To get the issue of polyamorous bisexuality out of the way … the way Lee’s revelations and self-discovery unfolds, it would be really easy to infer that polyamory and infidelity are inherent traits of bisexuality, rather than experiences particular to Lee.
To reiterate, polyamory is a valid, wonderful way to live. And people can be unfaithful, regardless of their sexuality or how they do relationships. Unfortunately, there’s some harmful biphobic language in this book that isn’t questioned or examined enough to make it clear that Lee’s completely valid experience of queerness isn’t universal.
To that end, while I normally love me a first-person POV and an unreliable narrator, Lee leaves out a bit too much to follow certain threads. There’re some wonderful points raised about Lee’s privilege as a white, gender-conforming cis woman.
However, since the story is from her POV, and she’s not aware of her privilege, it seems shoehorned in. Of course, that is what suddenly being made aware of your privilege can feel like, but I do think there’s a difference between narrative storytelling and real life. We could have used a few more dots connected before these conversations happened.
Furthermore, Max calls Lee out for not understanding what life in Memphis is like being openly queer. This is true, but neither Max nor Lee really examine what it’s like being closeted in Memphis with any real depth. Lee wonders for a few sentences if she avoided dealing with her sexuality because she “knew Memphis wouldn’t love [me] back.” I just … wanted more.
What Really Doesn’t Work
I never again want to read another flipping nonconsensual outing that’s glossed over.
I went into Indestructible Object super excited. And enjoyed it immensely for about the first 20 percent. I kept reading because I expected someone to call people out on their problematic BS, but no one did. And, honestly, I walked away from the book a lil’ bit traumatized.
Indestructible Object is out June 15, 2021.
Content warning: biphobia, homophobia, racism, transphobia, sex-shaming, shaming of polyamory, mild sexual content, parental divorce.