With Transit, the inspired British writer Rachel Cusk continues a trilogy of spare and elusive novels she began with Outline. The narrator of these books is a woman writer called Faye, a name that, appropriately, means confidence or trust—for these novels comprise a series of episodes wherein the narrator remains an aloof interlocutor, prompting thoughtful confessional stories from others while revealing little about herself.
The basic setup—divorced mother of two boys (Faye) moves back to London where she embarks on the renovations of a ramshackle house—provides a nominal structure, as well as two seemingly conflicting qualities: humor and a creeping fatalism. This relocation is just one meaning of the word “transit” explored, though, as the different characters she encounters speak of life changes both bold and banal. With a therapist’s remove, Faye draws out the stories—an old boyfriend left behind 15 years before, a gay hairdresser settling into middle age, a cousin who escaped a bad marriage and is now navigating the uncertain waters of a new one, a bestselling memoirist with a nightmare boyhood to expunge, the displaced Albanian and Polish men working on her flat. Taken individually, these confessionals are singularly entertaining, because Cusk is an unequaled observer of what takes place on the periphery, and she has a keen ear for hearing and recording the ways that people reveal themselves both through what they say and what they do not. Yet it is the cumulative effect of these narratives that gives this largely plot-free novel its power.
With literary sleight of hand, Cusk is playing narrative tricks, and Transit, like Outline before it, slowly reveals much about Faye, too, no matter how concealed she tries to remain. Transit is a brilliant meditation on change, freedom and the ways we construct our lives, one true or false narrative at a time.