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Miranda July’s ‘All Fours’: A Mom’s Adventurous Journey

Midway through life’s journey, Dante Alighieri embarked on an odyssey through hell, Walter White abandoned his teaching career to become a methamphetamine kingpin, and now, in Miranda July’s novel “All Fours,” a 45-year-old unnamed narrator tells her family she’s driving from Los Angeles to New York for work. Instead, she exits the highway after just 20 miles, checks into an unassuming motel in Monrovia, California, and spends a surprising $20,000 to redecorate the room, where she plans to stay for a tumultuous two weeks.

Midlife crises, often depicted in popular culture, typically center around men. But July’s witty and probing novel poses a different question: How should a woman respond to a similar surge of longing, a desperate grasp to seize the day, and the dread of looming mortality? Especially when women, undergoing significant hormonal changes during midlife, are expected to maintain the stability of daily family life?

This narrator is a successful, “semi-famous” artist who creates provocative works. She is married to a man named Harris and is the mother of Sam, a 7-year-old. Despite her love and appreciation for her family, she feels constrained. Her sense of entrapment is exacerbated by the lingering trauma of Sam’s birth, where he suffered a hemorrhage—a rare condition with a high fatality rate. Although Sam recovered, the narrator is haunted by flashbacks. She feels more alive during crises than during serene domestic moments. She’s creatively and emotionally stuck.

In Monrovia, she encounters Danny, a captivating young man who works for Hertz but harbors artistic aspirations and admires her work. She hires Danny’s wife to transform her motel room into a lavish haven.

Amidst their growing mutual attraction, “All Fours” doesn’t devolve into a mere romantic escapade. Instead, fueled by July’s engaging narrative style and her penchant for the unusual, the story becomes more surprising, invigorating, and extraordinary.

The narrator doesn’t look down on those who follow the stereotypical midlife crisis script. Reflecting on these “few silly men in red convertibles,” she imagines greeting one of them solemnly, acknowledging his existential questioning with: “God be with you, seeker.”

July’s diverse portfolio in film, literature, and performance has always tapped into personal experiences. With autofiction becoming a dominant literary trend for over a decade, “All Fours” aligns well with the works of authors like Jenny Offill, Rachel Cusk, and the newly appreciated Lucia Berlin.

“All Fours” is filled with unexpected seduction and inventive, often risqué, sexual themes. The narrator’s candid exploration of perimenopause and menopause is liberating. While July’s work is often labeled as whimsical or twee, such descriptions fail to capture the book’s intense core, which melds humor with profound seriousness.

Women who grew up in the ’80s sharing Judy Blume’s “Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret” will find a kindred spirit in “All Fours.” Addressing questions like “What’s going to happen to me?”, “What should I do about it?”, and “What does it all mean?”, July’s novel resonates deeply.

The narrator’s unique and unexpected revelations may inspire readers to seek their own answers.

Source: StarTribune