Verge – by Z Egloff

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Claire McMinn’s trying to get her life in order. She’s given up drinking. She’s stopped sleeping with her best friend. She’s working hard at college, hoping to get into film school. But she really shouldn’t have slept with her film instructor’s wife. Or made a video of it. Or drunkenly left it in his desk drawer. 

When Claire’s beloved instructor kicks her out of class, she bikes home through her “cheap, empty, dust-engorged” Central Valley town, to find her best friend Shelly has been beaten up by her husband. Claire accompanies Shelly to a Catholic community center which provides counseling and a place to stay but it’s a short-term solution. Shelly’s plan is to move in with Claire “just for a bit.” 

While waiting with Shelly at the community center, Claire mentions she’s been kicked out of class and needs to find equipment to finish her project. The intake nun overhears and volunteers the film equipment stashed at their outpost center. 

Claire is nonplussed by the nun who greets her at the Bearley Community Center. Young and striking, Sister Hilary is like no nun Claire has ever envisioned. When Claire tells her she is there to borrow the film equipment Sister Hilary tells her there has been a mistake, the equipment cannot leave the center. Seeing Claire’s disappointment, Sister Hilary suggests a compromise – in exchange for letting Claire use the equipment, Claire can volunteer at the center and film her project there. Desperate to complete a project that will get her into film school, Claire reluctantly agrees.

Thus begins Claire’s slippery, sometimes painful, often funny, descent into love with a nun. The developing romance is certainly the focus of the novel but the plot is elevated into first-class story-telling by creating a complete and vulnerable character out of Claire; not only is she trying to not “corrupt” a nun (“Do you have any idea how seriously you’d go to hell for something like that?”), she’s also attempting to stay sober, patch it up with her old instructor, remain celibate with Shelly, and all this while coping with her marvelously dysfunctional family.

Egloff has created an endearing character, full of foibles and promise. Verge bolts into action and Egloff sustains the pace with fresh, creative writing. The romance is above average, taking time to develop amid reasonable setbacks which are never maudlin or neurotic. Egloff’s secondary, and even minor characters are fleshy and fully developed. Verge is a mature and refreshing tale of falling in love not just with another woman, but with one’s self. 

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