Nick is a freelance artist who seems unable to connect with his few friends or even his family. Although he hits it off with a doctor he meets at a bar, and they quickly begin a sexual relationship, he is unable to connect with her in any meaningful way. He has quips for everything, yet he knows he is on the outside looking in, and wants to try harder to connect with people in his life but is unsure how to do so. The narrative shows him haltingly trying to push himself to engage, and when he does so, the illustrations switch from black and white to color. When a tragedy befalls him, he aches for what could have been if he had just tried connecting earlier.
At first, I had a hard time relating to Nick, as he seemed like a slacker who was a woke fuck-boy whose new girlfriend had to drag him towards maturity. But the story grew on me, as Nick matured and reached for a more meaningful life. While I liked author Will McPhail’s minimalist illustrations, and how he captured the feel of NYC, the eyes he drew for everyone drove me mad. All the eyes looked like googly eyes so everyone looked surprised and showed little emotional connection (maybe that’s the point?). He illustrates regularly for The New Yorker and his one-panel cartoons are wry and astute without the eye issue (or maybe it’s less obvious with one panel vs an entire book), so he obviously was making a stylistic choice for this book. Nevertheless, I’ll look for future books by McPhail, as he has an interesting voice.