Lynn Sloan’s Midstream is a novel that captures what it means to be woman in America agnostic of time or place.
Polly Wainwright works as a picture editor for Encyclopedia Britannica (EB). It’s 1974. A once aspiring filmmaker, Polly has settled for a steady job in Chicago while her boyfriend is off across the seas covering the end of The Vietnam War. Polly, though, has responsibilities. She has a mother to take care of, a paycheck she needs to collect to keep afloat. She doesn’t have the time or space to galivant into the jungle, to pursue her dreams, like all the men in her life.
We see a forest through what looks like a
cracked mirror on the cover of Lynn Sloan’s
new novel, Midstream.
Polly’s life is thrown askew when she finds out the project she’s working on at EB will fold at the end of the year and almost the entire staff will be laid off. There’s that, and her relationship with her boyfriend is slowly sinking. And on top of that, Polly is faced with her own mortality when her best friend falls seriously ill. Oh, and a mysterious package arrives.
All of this sets Polly on a different life course she always dreamed of, but never dared to pursue.
Polly takes us back to 1962 when she worked as an assistant on a film project, showing us all the ways things went wrong and why she ended up where she did. But Polly’s past creeps up on her in more than just memories as she is reunited with old acquaintances to uncover a potential mystery.
Midstream is a novel about a woman who is midstream in an unsatisfying life, when she decides to turn it around. Polly makes the decisive effort to forget about, or ignore as best she can, the sexist tropes that have kept her down and to subtly fight against them.
Sloan reveals in a number of ways how being a woman forces us into boxes, creates untrue narratives that are perpetuated (even by other women), and gives us hope that we can break free. With the overturning of Roe v Wade and the rapid descent back into a time of even greater oppression and subjugation for women, Midstream is a very welcome novel.