Since at least as far back as “Pride and Prejudice,” or “Jane Eyre,” single people, their love lives and their problems have been among the mainstays of the novel. Numerous ads for dating Web sites try to answer the question: Where can I meet interesting single people? To that question, at least one obvious answer presents itself: They may be met in the pages of novels.
One particular novel published this summer — “Bradstreet Gate” by Robin Kirman — introduces readers to a group of interesting singles leading complicated lives made only more complicated by a murder mystery. It is the story of friends who meet as college students, following their intersecting lives for 10 years after they graduate as they look for love, fulfillment and happiness.
One of the friends, Charlie, is an ambitious, career-oriented scholarship student eager to join the American elite and leave behind the drab, lower-middle-class environment he grew up in. He is ready to find the woman who might make this journey with him, and he doesn’t want to settle for someone belonging to the world from which he came.
Charlie is quickly smitten by Georgia, by the mere sight of her blonde beauty and slim elegance. Much of his college career is devoted to pursuing her; yet while she seems to value him as a friend, she is not as drawn to him physically in the way he is to her.
Alice, on the other hand, a daughter of Serbian immigrants, seems to be attracted, at least at various times, to both Charlie and Georgia. Alice is bipolar, and sometimes her behavior can be explained only as the result of her illness, compounded by the jealousy she feels toward her friends.
Then there is the charismatic professor, with whom Georgia is carrying on a secret affair. The relationship does not last, but the bitterness and jealousy it creates does.
When Julie, a student in the professor’s class, is found murdered, the campus is thrown into turmoil, and the lives of the professor and the three students are changed. Alice publishes a story in the campus newspaper, exposing the fact that the professor upon whom suspicion has already fallen, has, in fact, had affairs with students. Georgia is named.
Charlie’s veneration of the professor turns to angry disgust, while he also feels betrayed by Georgia. It is in the shadow of these circumstances that the next 10 years unfold, with Charlie making money, as he had planned and hoped to do, but failing to escape his essential loneliness.
The book addresses weighty questions such as: What is the possibility of two unattached people, who might be right for each other, to overcome the consequences of a betrayal by one of them? And what kinds of penance, real and psychological, are necessary before two people are capable of purging jealousy and bitterness?
It is clear from the novel: None of that is easy.
As single people do in real life, the characters spend a lot of time looking for the right one — and in places the well-educated seeker might go. To New York restaurants, taxi cabs and hard-to-find apartments. To Washington, where an art history major finds a job at the National Gallery. To Silicon Valley, where start-up ideas are pitched. To India, where Georgia tries to satisfy herself by helping the less fortunate.
Through it all, there’s a constant effort to connect, a seeking that characterizes the lives of single people. But connection, physical or emotional, can be more than some people are up to — and takes more than desire and determination. Failure to find it can end in frustration, a state of mind that can produce unpredictable and even dangerous consequences.