THE BODY OF A WOMAN aging. It’s a landscape that, even as it vanishes, asks a lot of the eyes. Or it should. No two landscapes the same. They never were the same, no matter their age, but then how time brings details to the body.
Of course every woman’s body ages. What’s disorienting is how friendly it all starts out, with words like smooth and tight and firm, high and pink and wet—words that are given to women’s bodies and that they wear around, as comfortably as cotton. And why not? These are gifts they did little to earn. Life does this so rarely—offer unearned or unasked-for rewards. But inevitably the words fall away, one by one: There goes tight, there goes smooth, god, even wet. And the words that replace them, that are provisioned, are not nearly so welcome or easy to carry. Some women carry these new ways of addressing their bodies with pride. They’ll explain that the knots in their flesh tell a good story. Others celebrate the change of vernacular, the end of a certain kind of surveillance. Or they continue to pursue the first set of words—high, tight, smooth. It’s not wrong or it’s not for me to say. Who am I to say? I am a young or youngish woman. I am in my late middle thirties, though I could be twenty-five or fifty. I believe I have no age anymore. I am not unattractive but neither am I beautiful. I married a man I first met in college and then again later, a few years after graduation. My husband died a difficult death. I went with him, or a lot of me did. I cannot apologize for this nor do I wish to challenge that I am changed.
Being a widow was a respected thing once. Understood as a destination. Now, we are asked to let go, move on, become someone or something else, marry, divorce, marry again. American life asks us to engage in an act of triumphant recovery at all times or get out of the way. I have been happy to get out of the way.
My husband left me comfortably provided. With the money given me, I bought a small apartment building in which I live and rent three one-bedroom apartments. Behind my building in downtown Brooklyn there is a garden of three hundred square feet with an old lilac bush that blooms a deep ancient-looking purple, a tall female ginkgo, a scrawny sycamore, and then a strange assortment of plantings to which the previous owners and I have made a halfhearted commitment. In my case I queried will this herb or flower grow, and if the answer was yes, I let it make its bid for survival and maybe even return on its own the following year. I am often surprised by what greets me in the spring. Weeds of course but also a determined patchwork of grass that reminds me of the head of a disheveled balding man. My tenants have asked to contribute to the garden, but as I am not here to make a family of them, to know them too well, I’ve not encouraged this and so their relationship to the garden is as tentative as it is to me. I have only been a landlord for four years.
I didn’t normally allow subletters, but George brought her, a candidate, to meet me on a day where, though it was only the beginning of March, I could smell the soil in the damp air and had noticed the daylight was lengthening. George had always been a good tenant. He lived above me on the second floor and was careful of the noise his feet made over my head, and once when I was ill with a bacterial bronchitis, he had gone to pick up my antibiotics at the drugstore for me. He taught English at St. Ann’s, a private school on Pierrepont Street that turns its students into sophisticates long before they can vote, and he had
“From start to finish, Loyd’s prose flows exquisitely through the story, as she limns the depths of the protagonist’s mind, the complexity of human intimacy, and the idiosyncrasies of each new character with the grace of a seasoned novelist.” —Vanity Fair
“[A] mesmerizing debut…. beautifully, even feverishly described. As Celia discovers, the magnetic pull of other people's everyday experiences proves impossible to resist.” —Entertainment Weekly (A-)
“Celia’s journey is beautifully charted in this debut, with prose that mirrors her existence in her barely furnished apartment—confined, spare, but swirling with fierce emotion and insights.” —People (3 ½ stars)
“For first-time novelist Amy Grace Loyd, an apartment building is not simply housing. It is also a metaphor for the paradoxical isolation and proximity we feel among others...With forceful, sensual prose (the author is captivated by the scents of people and places), Loyd allows Celia to discover that ‘life had as many gains as losses as long as we were willing to tally them.’” —O, The Oprah Magazine
“A riveting, raw debut…. Loyd brilliantly keeps us holding our breath as Celia's barriers disintegrate, her rules fall away, and the shield she holds so tightly over her heart slowly lowers….Stunningly rendered, acutely emotional.” —Redbook
“Buy, read on the subway, and try not to smile as you’re reading something infinitely more scandalous than Fifty Shades… and no one knows!” —Book Riot
“Lloyd’s burnished, spare sentences conceal hidden volumes of emotion, and in its different moods, the book may put readers in mind of Joseph O’Neill’s Netherland or of a more hopeful version of Claire Messud’s recent The Woman Upstairs.” —The Millions, “Most Anticipated Books of 2013”
“An impressive debut.” —Chicago Tribune
“It is hard to read through Loyd’s novel without stopping to digest her lovely prose. Nearly every sentence has layers of meaning…. Loyd’s words read like the best kind of poetry. There are lines that leave you thinking about larger truths.” —New York Daily News
“Loyd is acute and unsparing in her portrayal of Celia’s grief over the loss of her husband. Though the chapters are short and the radius of action is small, Affairs still feels substantial. Celia moves almost ghostlike through her own apartment, her building, the streets of Brooklyn and the reaches of her mind, with the reader being just as absorbed in her thoughts as she is.” —Minneapolis Star Tribune
“This is a book filled with larger-than-life feelings, raw nerves, and sexual intrigue. Small details of everyday life become fraught with as much passion as stolen moments in presumed privacy… Remarkably, Loyd creates a dramatic tension that gives the most domestic of concerns a lusty weight because of what they mask—betrayal, love, and violence.” —The Daily Beast
“A splendid debut novel about a grief-stricken, very private woman learning to trust and take comfort, even joy, from her surroundings and peers…. The Affairs of Others is paced like a suspense novel, but while there are dark doings and violent events, the tone is less like a thriller and more like a character study of a woman who thinks she knows herself but is stunned to learn what she is capable of feeling. Loyd’s prose is beautifully controlled, with rich descriptions.” —