Title: Astrid Sees All
Author: Natalie Standiford
Genre: Literary Thriller
Publisher: Atria Books
Source: ARC via NetGalley (in exchange for an honest review)
Length: 272p.
Publishing Date: 06 April 2021

New York City, 1983: home to pop artists, celebrities, and serial killers. Phoebe and Carmen, who had met as undergrads at Brown, are more worried about trying to find a place to live in the East Village. When Carmen’s boyfriend dies unexpectedly, the women are able to quickly take over the apartment he’d been living in and begin what they hope is a mirrored opposite of what their lives uptown had been. Desperate to afford her new nightclub life — and to find new ways of distracting herself from everything that pushed her away from home — Phoebe takes a job at Plutonium, a nightclub full of performance art and themed rooms. This is how Phoebe becomes Astrid, a fortune teller-slash-new gimmick to help Plutonium stand out among the other night clubs across the Lower East Side. If only Astrid could have really seen all.

Grief and identity, the impact of one on the other, builds a foundation around the chaos of the 80’s party scene. Every day something new is going on. Someone new is dying, disappearing, opening a club, closing one, becoming a celebrity, losing everything they’ve worked for. Phoebe, unable to process the quick succession of the end of an affair and the death of her father, she checks out, no longer wanting to be a main player in her own story.

I spent my first months in New York wondering when something was finally going to happen to me. I wanted something big–good, bad, I didn’t care, as long as it shook me until my head spun.

Natalie Standiford, AStrid Sees All

Bohemia is alive and well in Standiford’s New York City but there’s always a question of how long is it really going to last? As Phoebe slips deeper and deeper down this rabbit hole of avoiding and escaping, whoever the girl was who graduated from Brown and lived uptown fades like the pictures of the missing girls that line the streets. Astrid Sees All may have a lot going on, but to me it captured the chaos of the 80’s — specifically of the Lower East Side during this time period. A general feeling of things can always be worse, and will get worse ripples through the book that pushes the story forward even if Phoebe doesn’t want it to. Drug addiction, toxic friendships, illness, murder, and celebrity sightings add the right amount of noise and confusion to make it feel like we’re moving with Phoebe through her nightclub, where every night feels like the night before, reflected through a fun mirror. When Phoebe starts feeling like she’s being followed, you have to question whether someone is actually hunting her, or if it’s just paranoia fueled by lack of sleep and white drugs.

I couldn’t separate the glamorous threads from the sad ones. They twisted and fed on each other, the glamour impossible without the sadness, and the sadness heightened by glamour.

Natalie Standiford, Astrid Sees All

As a big fan of Cat Marnell’s How to Murder Your Life and Tara Isabella Burton’s Social Creature, I loved Astrid Sees All from start to finish. Standiford captures the impact compounded, complicated grief can have on someone. Astrid Sees All, while a coming-to-age story steeped in thriller undertones, digs more into how much losing people and parts of yourself can change who you are. Empty you. Force you into a survival mode that sometimes blurs the line between self-preservation and self-destruction. Both thought-provoking and entertaining, Astrid Sees All is a wild ride I can’t wait to go back and read again.

This Literary Life is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. This in no way affects my opinion of the book(s) included in this post.

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