Random House editor Anna Pitoniak, born in Whistler but now based in New York, makes a strong literary debut with The Futures, a novel that follows a young couple in their 20s as they take on the great potential – and greater perils – of New York City and quasi-adulthood.
Alternating between first-person perspectives in a style that is straightforward and dialogue-driven, yet dreamily fluid, Julia and Evan’s interactions feel authentic and familiar (insomuch as the lives of Yale graduates from supportive and well-connected families can be familiar to the average reader). The characters’ relationships are made tense to the point of breaking from the inevitable passions and resentments that accompany personal growth. Despite the book’s narrowly conceived milieu – even minor characters seem to possess the unconditional security and financial backing of wealthy parents – the couple’s forays and frustrations are good illustrations of the difficult, teetering cusp of growing into a bona fide adult and seeking a place in the world.
The novel takes place during the 2008 financial crisis; the drama is heightened when Evan, who works at an investment firm, becomes entangled in an illegal scheme after his boss taps him for a side project that is anything but legitimate. The stress and pressure to perform in an entry-level position, along with obligatory work “meetings” that include alcohol-fuelled late nights and a last-minute trip to Las Vegas, result in Evan’s work life beginning to eclipse his relationship with Julia, driving her further away even as she stares down her own career and personal issues. The tension of this intimate relationship and its personal consequences serve as the more universal and poignant aspect of the duo’s story. No one, regardless of circumstance, is spared from betrayal and loss – be it loss of love, job, or direction. But this novel promises that, notwithstanding such hardships, fulfillment can be found in other places.
Though the novel is a delightful read with well-conceived descriptions of life in New York and millennial desperation, its examination of the struggles of early adulthood feels slightly constricted. Still, in what it offers, The Futures echoes recent bestsellers like Emma Straub’s Modern Lovers and Stephanie Danler’s Sweetbitter, and will no doubt appeal to a similar readership.