A disaffected adjunct’s life is disrupted by a miscarriage, forcing her to reckon with her body, work, relationships, and sense of self
As an adjunct professor of English with no hope of finding a permanent position, Dorothy feels “like a janitor in the temple who continued to sweep because she had no idea what else to do but who had lost her belief in the essential sanctity of the enterprise.” No one but her boyfriend knows that she’s just had a miscarriage, not even her therapists—Dorothy has two of them. As the days go by and Dorothy continues to bleed, her sense of contingency grows. How can she ever hope to feel in control of her life, when she can’t control her body?
The Life of the Mind is a novel about endings: of youth, of professional aspiration, of possibility, of the illusion that our minds can ever free us from the tyranny of our bodies. Through encounters with women—her friends, her therapists, her doctor, her mentor, and her mother—Dorothy comes up against the disappointments and limitations of intimacy. Living in a contemporary moment characterized by an ambient, pervasive dread, Dorothy is oppressed by the anxiety that a future disaster is looming and yet already here. In a world without plot, she tries, and fails, to achieve a sense of closure.
Consistently alive to how stories end and begin again, The Life of the Mind is a moving, often witty, and starkly original examination of how life also does, as they say, go on.