January 2019 Indie Next List
“Wow, wow, wow! Anyone who has ever appreciated an unreliable narrator will be transfixed by this story of obsession and creeping madness. In the wake of infertility and a looming divorce, our unnamed protagonist becomes more and more preoccupied by the seemingly perfect actress who lives down the block. You’ll read Looker in one sitting and want to pass it on to everyone you know — this is a stunner and a fantastic debut.”
— Emilie Sommer, East City Bookshop, Washington, DC
*Vogue’s “Most Anticipated Books of 2019”
*Entertainment Weekly’s “One of January’s Hottest Reads”
*Literary Hub’s “Most Anticipated Books of 2019”
*Southern Living’s “Best New Books Coming Out Winter 2019”
*Literary Hub’s “Most Anticipated Crime Books of 2019”
A dazzling, razor-sharp debut novel about a woman whose obsession with the beautiful actress on her block drives her to the edge.
I’ve never crossed their little fenced-in garden, of course. I stand on the sidewalk in front of the fern-and-ivy-filled planter that hangs from the fence—placed there as a sort of screen, I’m sure—and have a direct line of view into the kitchen at night. I’m grateful they’ve never thought to install blinds. That’s how confident they are. No one would dare stand in front of our house and watch us, they think. And they’re probably right: except for me.
In this taut and thrilling debut, an unraveling woman, unhappily childless and recently separated, becomes fixated on her neighbor—the actress. The unnamed narrator can’t help noticing with wry irony that, though she and the actress live just a few doors apart, a chasm of professional success and personal fulfillment lies between them. The actress, a celebrity with her face on the side of every bus, shares a gleaming brownstone with her handsome husband and their three adorable children, while the narrator, working in a dead-end job, lives in a run-down, three-story walk-up with her ex-husband’s cat.
When an interaction with the actress at the annual block party takes a disastrous turn, what began as an innocent preoccupation spirals quickly, and lethally, into a frightening and irretrievable madness. Searing and darkly witty, Looker is enormously entertaining—a psychologically suspenseful and fearlessly original portrait of the perils of envy.
About the Author
Laura Sims lives outside of New York City with her family. Looker is her debut novel.
An Indie Next Pick
"[Looker] is an ephemeral fiction with a hard landing—like a window, seen in passing, that glows and goes dark."
—The New Yorker
"Looker is a sugarcoated poison pill of psychological terror, whose wit and fluency cover its lacerating diagnosis of the deranging effects of envy, perhaps the most widespread social sickness of our age. The novel disturbs because we are all, to some degree, susceptible to the bacillus of the narrator’s insanity. And her symptoms may be more recognizable than we care to admit."
—Wall Street Journal
“It’s easy to imagine that stars live gauzily perfect lives. But what happens when the illusion turns deadly? In Sims’s creepy debut, a woman fixates on the actress living across the street, admiration tilting into pathology as events in her own life—infertility, her husband’s desertion—unmask her fragility. The ultimate unreliable narrator, she reveals her instability slowly. By the end you’ll be gasping.”
“A wicked slow-burn . . . . Looker glides toward its ending as if eagerly awaiting the discovery of something ghastly.”
"Is Looker a warning? A character study? An exploration of grief? A critique of American culture? It is all of these things, as well as a novel about what it means to be seen—and what it means to be unseen. Most essentially, it is a heady thriller that asks a reader to engage with a narrator who has been told by circumstance that she has nothing to live for, and who fills the empty spaces in her life with an unhealthy obsession. Lookerdemands the reader look at—really gaze at, live with, and experience—dangerous obsession, but more pointedly, the societal expectations that might lead to it in the first place."
“A spectacular debut novel ... Sims' masterful ending caps a book which does everything right.
—The Newark Star-Ledger
“Tense, twisted and briskly paced ... Somewhat surprisingly, the most disturbing thing about Looker is the creeping sense of complicity that Sims engenders in the reader."
"In prose that moves between lyrical and caterwauling, the poet Laura Sims has pulled off the high-wire act of making bitterness delicious."
—Vogue, "Most Anticipated Books of 2019"
"This debut is a penetrating and unsettling psychological thriller ... It’s a novel about identity, appearances, and envy, and it’s one of the season’s most timely reads, an innovative experiment in what a thriller can be."
—Literary Hub, "Most Anticipated Books of 2019"
"In this brief, haunting novel, Sims chronicles the inner life of an unnamed woman ... Looker is a powerful sylph of a book about creation and destruction and the permeable boundary between them."
—Literary Hub, "13 Books You Should Read This January"
"In this electrifying Hitchcockian debut, an unhappy woman’s obsession with a nearby actress will push the boundaries between insanity and desperation."
—Washington Independent Review of Books, "16 Fiction Releases to Watch for”
"I've said it before and I'll say it again, I can't wait to see Looker on the big (or small) screen one day ... If you loved The Woman in the Window or Girl on the Train, you won't be able to put Laura Sims's book down this January."
—Women.com, "10 New Books You Absolutely Must Read This January"
“Tense, twisted and briskly paced, poet Laura Sims's debut novel, Looker, is the progressively disturbing story of one woman's grief-fueled spiral downward to an irredeemable rock bottom… Somewhat surprisingly, the most disturbing thing about Looker is the creeping sense of complicity that Sims engenders in the reader… By the end, Sims compels us to ask: Have we been deranged, predatory voyeurs into the actress's life—or into the narrator's?”
“Laura Sims’ sharp debut novel is a thriller about an unhealthy fixation between neighbors, one that’s propelled by the unnamed narrator’s unraveling as she descends into a vortex of resentment and obsession.”
—Southern Living, Best New Books Winter 2019
“Jealousy rears its ugly head in Sims’s chilling and riveting debut. In this tightly plotted novel, Sims takes the reader fully into the mind of a woman becoming increasingly unhinged, and turns her emotionally fraught journey into a provocative tale about the dangers of coveting what belongs to another.”
—Publishers Weekly, starred review
“Readers fond of protagonists who profess to guzzling wine at nine a.m. will breeze right through this one's bad decisions, moments of shocking clarity and cruelty, and—no spoilers!—total undoing. A dark and stylish drama featuring a self-aware yet unstable narrator.”
“[A] gripping and intense debut . . . . This twisted and tightly coiled tale will define obsession on a new level.”
“Sims’s debut is a breathless and unrelenting portrait of one woman’s unraveling.”
—Greer Hendricks, New York Times bestselling co-author of The Wife Between Us
"A perfect, dark pleasure...propelled by a woman whose obsession with a famous actress spurs one irredeemable trespass after another. A rare debut filled with gorgeous sentences, savory twists, and shot through with ferocious truths, this is the kind of book that can only be written by an author who is thrillingly unafraid."
—Mona Awad, author of 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl
“With an agile precision reminiscent of Lydia Davis, Laura Sims captures the obsessiveness of a woman who unravels after the collapse of her marriage. A taut, gripping portrait, all the more sinister for its elegance.”
—Leni Zumas, author of Red Clocks
“Like Polanski’s “Repulsion,” Laura Sims’s intense, gripping first novel shoehorns us into a gathering sense of dread, heightened at every turn by our sympathy for her relentlessly unraveling protagonist. The precise, observant writing slips through the skin without ever calling attention to itself.”
—Peter Straub, author of A Dark Matter and Interior Darkness
“A tightly coiled novel about the poison of resentment. With arresting candor, Laura Sims reveals how fatally it can destroy one's relationship to the world.”
—Idra Novey, author of Those Who Knew
"This riveting cautionary tale chronicles the catastrophic downward spiral of a woman whose situation exposes the fragility of human happiness. In language as piercing as the story itself, Sims offers an intense portrait of obsession. Looker is the work of a fierce and fearless writer."
—Helen Phillips, author of The Beautiful Bureaucrat